Medical Marijuana: New Northern California US Attorney Hints the Era of DEA Raids May Be Coming to an End
from Drug War Chronicle, Issue #522, 2/8/08
Incoming US Attorney for Northern California Joseph Russoniello held his first press briefing January 31, and during that briefing, he suggested that raiding and prosecuting medical marijuana providers is a waste of resources. That's a bit of a surprise, given Russoniello's history as a hard-line Republican prosecutor, but could augur a new day in Northern California.
Although personally opposed to medical marijuana and openly skeptical that many who claim to be using the herb medicinally are not really ill, Russoniello suggested that trying to prosecute dispensaries out of existence was akin to trying to plough the sea. "The overwhelming majority of people in my view who are so-called patients are not," he said, but he added that cracking down on dispensaries was futile. "We could spend a lifetime closing dispensaries and doing other kinds of drugs, enforcement actions, bringing cases and prosecuting people, shoveling sand against the tide. It would be terribly unproductive and probably not an efficient use of precious federal resources," said Russoniello.
Whether Russoniello's words will translate into policy changes in his office remains to be seen, but they could be a harbinger of things to come. Both Democratic presidential contenders have said they would halt the DEA raids on dispensaries in California, so his office could have few medical marijuana cases to prosecute in any case.
Russoniello has other, higher priorities, including gun crimes, hard drugs, gangs, and child pornography, he said. "Guns which are a scourge to communities, which combined with the twin poisons of gangs and drugs are literally enslaving whole neighborhoods," he said.
Russionello took over as US Attorney for Northern California early last month. He also spent eight years in that position under President Reagan in the 1980s.