Since October 2009, the federal government has raided roughly 170 medicinal marijuana dispensaries and farms around the country, sweeping up dozens of people in mass arrests and destroying hundreds of plants. Judging from the number of guns captured at a few sites, some of these people are genuine criminals. But last month’s raid on Oaksterdam University — which trained people to work in dispensaries — shows the feds aren’t motivated solely by the apprehension of such criminals.
Backers of medical marijuana held out hope that as president, Barack Obama would quietly redirect the Justice Department’s resources away from raids on dispensaries and growers and toward more-dangerous drugs. This has turned out to be rather naive; the president recently declared that he cannot order his own subordinates to ignore federal law, and so the busts must continue.
U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi did take a stand against the president, issuing a statement that criticized the raids. In the statement, she said she stands up for the rights of health patients around the country.
“I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering ofpatients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals [who] complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana,” Pelosi wrote.
Peel away the anodyne hand-wringing, and the message is clear: Pelosi fully believes the president has all the power in the world to rein in federal drug agents, but chooses not to do so.
She is right to call out Obama on his slippery evasions — and to stand with patients and the people working to ease their pain.
It is easy to sit back and criticize the president about medical marijuana policy — especially when you represent San Francisco, where almost everyone, including District Attorney George Gascón, supports medical pot. It takes a little more courage to actually do something about it, even when you’re the minority leader of the House of Representatives. So far, Pelosi has yet to muster that kind of backbone.
At the conclusion of her statement, Pelosi wrote, “I have long supported efforts in Congress to advocate federal policies that recognize the scientific evidence and clinic research demonstrating the medical benefits of medicinal marijuana, that respects the wishes of the states in providing relief to ill individuals, and that prevents the federal government from acting to harm the safe access of medicinal marijuana provided under state law.”
But while Pelosi drafts statements, the federal government is busy throwing people in prison. If Pelosi is serious about stopping this injustice, she will write, sponsor or support legislation that overturns federal laws against medicinal marijuana.