Pubdate: Wed, 26 Oct 2011
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2011 The Sacramento Bee
Page: 3A
Author: Peter Hecht


Medical marijuana advocates, decrying a federal government crackdown 
on dispensaries and a failure of state lawmakers to act, said Tuesday 
that they are drafting a 2012 ballot initiative to impose statewide 
oversight of California's burgeoning medicinal cannabis trade.

The ballot push, announced at a San Francisco news conference, is 
being readied by groups that include the architects of 2010's 
unsuccessful Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana for 
recreational use.

Dale Sky Jones, chancellor of Oakland's Oaksterdam University, the 
cannabis trade school that became the nerve center for the 
Proposition 19 campaign, said recent federal enforcement actions 
underscored a need for an initiative dealing specifically with 
regulating medical marijuana.

A representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers Unions, 
which is organizing California cannabis workers, and Steve DeAngelo, 
director of California's largest medical marijuana dispensary, said 
they are also working on drafting language for the potential 2012 initiative.

While they noted the framework is still to be determined, advocates 
said they are considering asking voters to impose a Colorado-style 
regulatory system, with state inspections and licensing, on medical 
marijuana cultivators and providers.

Jones, chairman of the Coalition for Cannabis Reform Policy, said the 
group hopes to build on the nearly 47 percent of voters who supported 
Proposition 19 to pass an initiative that would impose "a robust 
system of statewide regulation" for medical marijuana.

But backers will have to find funding sources other than Richard Lee, 
the Oaksterdam founder who contributed $1.5 million to Proposition 
19. He has said he can't afford to bankroll another ballot measure.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said the Legislature's 
inaction may have stoked federal intervention by leaving local 
governments to scramble to decide how to regulate hundreds of medical 
marijuana stores that have opened in California since 2009.

"Right now, zip is happening," Ammiano said at the San Francisco news 
conference that was called to protest federal actions on medical 
marijuana as President Barack Obama appeared at a political 
fundraiser in the city.

The president faced demonstrations Tuesday by anti-war activists and 
Occupy San Francisco protestors as well as the medical marijuana supporters.

"It's a slap in the face for all the people who voted for Proposition 
215," the 1996 state Compassionate Use Act initiative legalizing 
medical marijuana use, Ammiano said. "California should not be 
lagging behind. We should be fighting back. Right now the state is dithering."

Ammiano and other advocates charged that Obama's Justice Department 
is launching an unfair assault on California medical marijuana 
providers. On Oct. 7, California's four U.S. attorneys announced 
charges against dispensaries and growers, as well as financial 
speculators throughout the state's medicinal pot market.

Declaring the state's purportedly nonprofit medical marijuana trade 
to be "hijacked by profiteers," federal authorities also have been 
threatening landlords with loss of their buildings or properties  and 
potential prosecution  for leasing to dispensaries or for marijuana 

At the gathering in San Francisco, Lynette Shaw, director of 
California's longest operating dispensary, the Marin Alliance for 
Medical Marijuana, called for Obama to issue an executive order 
stopping the California enforcement actions.

A recent letter from San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag 
threatened the landlord of the dispensary, opened in 1996 and 
licensed by the city of Fairfax in 1997, with property seizure. It 
also said dispensary operators could be subject to charges resulting 
in up to 40 years in prison under federal laws against narcotics 
dealing within 1,000 feet of a park.

Matt Cohen, owner of the Mendocino County Northstone Organics medical 
marijuana farm, also appeared. His premises was raided by U.S. drug 
agents this month, even though his plants are tagged and monitored by 
the local sheriff under a county-supervised medical marijuana 
compliance program.

In Sacramento, six people tied to the R & R Wellness Collective 
dispensary were indicted in a case that has included allegations of 
hoarding more than $250,000 in cash and distributing marijuana to 
Southern California.

DeAngelo, whose Harborside Health Center dispensary is fighting a 
$2.4 million tax penalty by the Internal Revenue Service, complained 
that federal authorities are aiming their assaults at legitimate 
operators following state law.

"They have gone after the Marin Alliance, Northstone Organics and 
Harborside. These organizations are 100 percent compliant," he said. 
"They (federal authorities) should either learn how to aim or learn 
how to tell the truth."

Last week, state Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement 
that "ambiguities" in state medical marijuana law "must be resolved 
by the Legislature or the courts." Meanwhile, she warned that an 
"overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more 
difficult for legitimate patients" to obtain medical marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart