Pubdate: Fri, 06 Apr 2012
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Debra J. Saunders


Why is the federal government under President Obama arguably tougher
on medical marijuana operations than it was under George W. Bush?
That's the question that antidrug-war groups have been asking
themselves for months.

In 2008, antiprohibitionists thought an Obama administration would not
tread on medical-marijuana dispensaries in states where they are
legal. Obama 2008 campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told me Obama
"believes that states and local governments are best positioned to
strike the balance between making sure that these policies are not
abused for recreational drug use and making sure that doctors and
their patients can safely access pain relief."

Now that Obama's in office, however, his Department of Justice is not
allowing the 16 states that have legalized medical marijuana to
self-regulate. Exactly the opposite: Last fall, U.S. attorneys in
California warned landlords that they must evict medical-marijuana
clubs or risk having their assets seized. In October, the Internal
Revenue Service informed dispensaries that they cannot declare
standard tax deductions because they are criminal enterprises.

"Drug kingpins and cartels don't file taxes. We do," Steve DeAngelo,
director of medical-marijuana giant Harborside Health Center, told
MSNBC. "But no business, including ours, can survive if it is taxed on
its gross revenue. The IRS is trying to tax us out of existence."

On Monday, the feds raided the apartment and medical-marijuana
businesses run by Richard Lee, the wheelchair-bound Oakland
pro-marijuana activist, who put more than $1 million into the 2010
Proposition 19 campaign to legalize marijuana.

According to news reports, Lee's supporters came out to protest the
raid, and some punctuated their point by lighting up in public. Such
antics reinforce law enforcement's suspicion that recreational users
are hiding behind the skirts of medical marijuana.

The thing is, Obama The Candidate said he'd let locals decide how to
handle any abuses, and there is local enforcement. According to the
office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, there were 16,585
felony marijuana arrests in 2010. Some cities go after dispensaries
suspected of illegal trafficking, others choose to use their resources
on higher priorities. (Lee points out that Oakland police were
detailed to control crowds that gathered to protest the raid on his
Oaksterdam University on the day of the horrific Oikos University 

An Obama official informed me that the administration has not changed
positions. The administration always maintained that federal officials
have the authority - indeed, a duty under the Controlled Substances
Act - to go after traffickers who use medical marijuana as a pretext
to sell a drug.

But Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, sees an
escalation in federal raids. "Arrests have not been made every time
there's been a raid," Hermes observed. "We call them 'smash and grab.'
DEA agents come in, guns drawn, ski masks even. They destroy the
place. They take everything" - computers, money, plants.

This is what bothers me: The feds can use their ability to raid and to
intimidate landlords without having to prove anything in court.

Lee's attorney, Laurence Jeffrey Lichter, told me U.S. Attorney
Melinda Haag has not charged his client, and he hopes she will not. To
Lichter, raiding without charging beats prosecuting club operators.

Hermes, however, has big issues with Obama Justice big-footing. He
sees an aggressive campaign to drive medical-marijuana clubs out of
business - even if that means cutting off sick people's access to the

"What happens if they're successful?" Harborside's DeAngelo asked.
"Cannabis doesn't go away. Medical cannabis doesn't go away."
Marijuana instead goes to the street, and the money winds up with "the
Mexican cartels."

"Why are such resources, at a time of fiscal crisis, being used to go
after a community that has such political support?" Hermes asked. One
factor, no doubt is that Attorney General Eric "Holder and Obama have
basically been given a free ride by the mainstream media, and no one's
really holding them to account."

Rep. Ron Paul - the GOP presidential candidate who opposes
Washington's war on drugs - spoke with The Chronicle editorial board
Thursday. Asked about the Oakland raids, Paul opined, it's "all
political," a calculation of the sort made in election years. But it's
bad politics that doesn't keep up with how the country is changing.

Last month, pollster Scott Rasmussen reported that 47 percent of
Americans support legalizing marijuana to help alleviate the country's
fiscal woes, while 42 percent oppose legalization.

So why is Obama the drug war's new Rambo?

Candidate Paul concluded, "I think they're out of touch."
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