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  1. Balzafire
    New Justice Department memo says medical marijuana growers will be prosecuted

    Steve DeAngelo was in the airport this morning on his way to the Rainbow Gathering, a weeklong hippie-fest, in the state of Washington.

    But DeAngelo, who runs Oakland's Harborside Health Center, one of the nation's largest medical marijuana dispensaries, wasn’t feeling very peaceful, in fact, he was fuming.

    The reason: last night a memo leaked from the Department of Justice that shows the Obama Administration is taking a tougher stance against medical marijuana growers and sellers.

    “I feel personally betrayed: I campaigned for Obama, I contributed to Obama. He said during his campaign that they would not go after people who were complying with state law,” said DeAngelo. “I find myself thinking I might vote for a Republican for the first time in my life.”

    Issued Wednesday, the missive from Deputy US Attorney General James Cole is supposed to clarify the 2009 Ogden memo, which encouraged law enforcement to lay off “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."

    Medical marijuana supporters viewed the Ogden memo as an olive branch from the Obama administration following eight years of aggressive prosecution by the Bush Administration. But the memo released this week says that with states and local governments contemplating regulations that allow “large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers,” things have changed.

    “The Ogden Memorandum was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law,” Cole wrote.

    Although the Cole memo specifically calls out large growing operations, Bill Panzer, a criminal defense attorney in Oakland, said the feds are sending a message to everyone.

    “It does show that the federal government is considering going after producers, and I think people that are running dispensaries need to be careful too,” said Panzer. “The bottom line is that if you’re over a hundred plants, it puts you on the federal radar.”

    People caught with more than 100 plants face harsher sentences under federal guidelines.

    As the medical marijuana industry has grown in California, the federal government has made its displeasure known. Last year, Oakland withdrew a plan to license four large indoor pot farms, under pressure from the Justice Department.

    Panzer said he believes that Bay Area medical marijuana growers, under the jurisdiction of US Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag, should remain relatively safe.

    But in the Eastern District, which encompasses most of the more conservative inland California, Panzer said it’s a different story. That’s where the feds arrested Yan Ebyam, the former Oakland potrepreneur, last week for two large medical marijuana growing operations.

    Panzer summed up the federal government’s position on medical marijuana, which still cautions against prosecuting patients who are seriously ill, as “don't indict anyone who won’t at live long enough to get through trial.”

    The memo comes as political support for medical marijuana is growing. Conservative Arizona is now one of several states considering allowing pot clubs. Last month, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and Barney Frank have introduced a bill that would allow states to regulate pot.

    DeAngelo, who said he might vote for Ron Paul, said Obama is making a “political miscalculation” by distancing himself from medical marijuana and the people who got him elected.

    By Zusha Elinson
    July 1, 2011


  1. GreyPaws
    Not sure how going after large scale grow ops (like the ones in oakland, where the limits are set by square footage rather than plant counts) equates with the "feds sending a message to everyone"

    a husband and wife living together in a private residence can each posses up to 99 plants, 198 plants between two people should be plenty. a 5000 square foot warehouse can accommodate 4000-5000 plants (1'x1' in half gallon pots) how can anyone justify those numbers?
  2. CaptainTripps
    Obama is just proving what everyone seems to refuse to believe, he is a moderate. The trend in American politics has been to move to the right, so someone like Obama just seems liberal in the current spectrum. I think it is not surprising that now the economy is not where everyone had hoped it would be that Obama is becoming very cautious.

    Although I don't like this apparent shift in policy, I don't think this is a bad political strategy. He is not going after patients and he is not going after small to moderate size providers. He is going after the big business producers. He is showing compassion for the seriously ill and he is allowing a reasonable means for them to acquire their medicine. Either by growing their own, or going to small dispensaries or coops. He is also showing that he is not going to allow medical marijuana to expand into the the "recreational arena". He also is preventing the state economies from becoming dependent on the marijuana industry .

    The fact he must face is that the president is not elected by the popular vote. There is no way he can get reelected with the electoral college if he is perceived as supporting the legalization of recreational marijuana. Large scale marijuana operations are viewed by many as a precursor to legalization of recreational use. If you look at how far the medical marijuana movement has progressed in the last couple of years, it is not so much Obama that has changed but the legal medical marijuana landscape. The types of operations that were being tolerated in the beginning of the Obama administration are still, more or less, being tolerated. It is the newer, bigger more institutionalized operations that are coming under attack. The Obama policy has been to allow patients their medicine and provide a reasonable means for them to acquire it. It was not intended to be an endorsement of big business pot. This is a very moderate position to take.

    It is important to note that the only republican candidate (to my knowledge) to support ending marijuana prohibition is Ron Paul, and he is not likely to get nominated. Most of those who are likely to get nominated are likely to make Obama look like Marc Emery in comparison. Newt Gingrich at one time wanted to make smuggling commercial quantities of drugs (including marijuana) a capitol offense. Commercial quantities were any amount that would not be considered for personal use.

    Assuming that Ron Paul does not get the nomination, if you want to see medical marijuana to remain quasi-legal(through selective enforcement) at the federal level then supporting Obama is the only way to go. While pro marijuana forces are disappointed in his recent actions, the anti marijuana forces are even more angry.,at his failure to continue with the Bush era polices.

    Another thing to be considered is that if Obama does win the 2012 election, he does not have to worry about reelection. While I think it is unlikely that he will come out in favor of legalization, he might not oppose a bill that allows states to make their own laws. My guess is after the election if a bill like the one Ron Paul is proposing were to actually pass, he would sign it. He would probably say something like. "while I oppose the legalization of marijuana, I think this is an issue that should be decided by states and local communities. I would hope that they would decide not to legalize, but it should be their decision".

    As for those who supported Obama and feel betrayed, you can bet that things would not be nearly as good as they are now if John McCain had been elected.

    captaintripps added 12 Minutes and 36 Seconds later...

    Sorry, the federal law does not work that way. If a husband and wife were to grow 198 plants they would both be charged with being 99 plants over the threshold for the 5 year mandatory minimum sentencing. They do not divide the number of plants by the number of defendants. It is like murder, if a husband and wife kill two people, they would not be each found guilty of killing one person, they would both be found guilty of killing two people. So two life sentences each.

    In your scenario they would be involved in a conspiracy to grow 198 plants and the punishment would be no different that if it was one defendant. In fact, they could have two houses with 99 in each one. If they were working together, it could still be be considered 198 plants.
  3. Terrapinzflyer
    I would rather disagree- the huge sweeps in montana a couple months back, the raids in san diego and eastern washington, the pressure put on Arizona after they finally legalized medical marijuana, the threats to washington state as they recently tried to allow dispensaries, and a thorough reading/comparison of the Ogden memo and the cole memo- all indicate that anyone involved in production or distribution of medical marijuana for anyone but themselves or someone under their immediate care is fair game in the feds eyes.This seems to be especially true in states/regions where there is less public support for medical marijuana.

    And as to presidential politics- while I certainly am not endorsing him, Gary johnson, former governor of new mexico, is the only real candidate who has outright backed the legalization of marijuana.

    Edit I should add that using medical marijuana legislation to backdoor marijuana legalization is bound to create problems. But I have severe issues with the administrations view that it is only those most severely ill/dying deserve medical marijuana. For many less seriously ill patients it is a valid and often safer/less addictive alternative then conventional medicines, that has proven useful for everything from depression/anxiety/ptsd, to treating alcohol and other harmful addictions, to an alternative to opiate based painkillers (or other painkillers such as aceitmonophen which can be hepatoxic when used with alcohol)

    Likewise- this belief that patients should grow/have an immediate caregiver grow for then is likewise highly problematic. Issues range from the high upfront costs associated with growing, the increased risk of burglary they might face, lack of skill/knowledge of growing (it may be called "weed" but producing high grade medical cannabis is an art), the 3-6 month lag time between starting a crop and getting medicine, the potential for crop failure and resultant loss of medicine, space issues- especially for those that need multiple strains to cover various aspects of their illness, etc...

    Really- anyone with a prescription can walk to multiple pharmacies in their town and by highly potent and addictive painkillers, but they have an issue with medical marijuana dispensaries? Same solution - crack down on the doctors abusing the system- whether they are running pill mills or script farms. And give those that have been legitimately examined by a doctor, and found to be able to be helped, have safe and easy access to their medicines.
  4. CaptainTripps
    I think the thing about the Washington raids was that dispensaries were never actually legal in Washington. The citizens initiative allowed for one provider for one patient at a time It is pretty clear what the intent of the initiative was, a very restrictive system. However, pot is more tolerated than when this law was passed a dozen years ago.

    Because of the poor wording, a loophole was formed on the basis that the dispensaries could sequentially serve one client after another. As long as only one customer/patient was being served at one time it was "legal". Many local jurisdictions like Seattle had no real problems with using a loophole to allow dispensaries. If Seattle had the power to do so, they would do it in a heartbeat. Others, like Tacoma would rather not have dispensaries, but to go after them brings political problems. Tacoma backed down from a plan to take business licenses from the dispensaries. There were protests and threats of lawsuits. They basically punted and all parties asked the legislature for guidance.

    Now this is where things get strange. The bill looked like it was in pretty good shape. Dispensaries would be allowed. Then the Governor says she supports medical marijuana but has some concerns. She then for some "mysterious" reason asks the feds what they think. On both sides of the mountain, they immediately fire off memo's saying marijuana, even medical marijuana, is not legal and state employees might run afoul of federal law for their role in regulating medical marijuana. Because of this 'threat" from the feds, she feels she has "no choice" but to veto the bill as she can not "endanger" state workers.

    If she had simply done that it would have been one thing. We would have been left with things the way they were before. But she did not do that. She vetoed most of the bill. The problem is the parts she left in, made it clear that dispensaries are not legal under Washington law. Loophole closed.

    Now some jurisdictions may look the other way until the law is reviewed again or the state forces them to take action. But it was very debatable that medical marijuana dispensaries were legal before the legislature passed the dispensary bill the Governor vetoed, but they are not legal now. I believe that when the raids were done in Eastern Washington, the feds made the argument that the dispensaries were operating outside of Washington law. (in their opinion).

    If I were Oliver Stone, I would think that the Governor who has close ties to the Obama administration (I have heard she has been on the short list for several important posts) was in league with the Obama administration to close the dispensaries in Washington. They get her to request guidance from the justice department and use this as an excuse to send the states a message regarding medical marijuana. It also gives the Governor cover to veto the bill, being a strong supporter of labor and the unions, she "reluctantly" has to veto the bill. Because she is "compassionate" and "supports" medical marijuana she does not veto the whole bill, only most of it. But it just so happens the parts she approves make dispensaries illegal. So even the shaky loophole is gone. She is not running for reelection. My guess is that if Obama is reelected in 2012 our dear governor will be living in the "Other Washington".
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