A coalition of drug reform organizations is asking President Obama to end what it calls a “war” on medical marijuana patients and providers. In a letter to the president, the coalition called recent federal action against medical marijuana distributors “misguided and counterproductive.”
Medical marijuana is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia to treat symptoms of a variety of health problems, including glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, cancer and chronic pain. The federal government still considers marijuana a controlled substance, but Obama promised during the 2008 presidential campaign not to prosecute medical marijuana users who comply with state regulations.
“We simply cannot understand why you have reneged on your administration’s earlier policy of respecting state medical marijuana laws,” the coalition states in its letter to the president. “Instead of celebrating – or even tolerating – this state experimentation, which has benefited patients and taken profits away from drug cartels, you have turned your back as career law enforcement officials have run roughshod over some of the most professional and well-regulated medical marijuana providers.
The letter to Obama is endorsed by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), and the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).
The coalition believes the recent raid conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Internal Revenue Service on Oaksterdam University in Oakland, Calif. is part of a national effort to drive medical marijuana distribution back underground. The university is the state’s first marijuana trade school and a popular dispensary. Both are run by Richard Lee, a prominent marijuana activist. Lee said Friday he would close the school and the dispensary because the federal raid had bankrupted him. He said he would focus solely on advocacy work.
Federal agents have conducted more than 170 raids on medical marijuana operations since 2009, according to Americans for Safe Access, and in recent months U.S. attorneys have sent hundreds of letters to landlords of marijuana dispensaries, ordering them to evict their tenants or face seizure of their property.
The coalition is concerned that the Obama administration’s National Drug Control Strategy Report, which is expected to be released soon, will maintain existing federal policies for marijuana, “which further cement the control of the marijuana trade in the hands of drug cartels and illegal operators.”
“With approximately 50,000 people dead in Mexico over the past five years as the result of drug war-related violence, we hope that you will immediately reconsider your drug control strategy and will work with, not against, states and organizations that are attempting to shift control of marijuana cultivation and sales, at least as it applies to medical marijuana, to a controlled and regulated market.”
California’s medical marijuana industry took in about $2 billion and generated $100 million in state sales taxes in 2008.