Local Spin: Sorry, Mom
No medical marijuana for you – the feds are indifferent.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I had to call my 84-year-old, 90-pound, chronically ill mother in Chicago last week and share some bad news.
Even if she decided to get over her abject loathing of her non-Catholic son-in-law (and general disdain for most things involving California) and move in to our granny unit so we could battle our way through her golden years in closer proximity, she still couldn’t get medical marijuana.
The federal government doesn’t want her to have it – California state law and her own doctor’s recommendations be damned – even if it is the only thing that relieves general pain from a spinal fracture and cancer, and chronic stomach pain from intractable pancreatitis, long enough for her to eat.
“But why? Why doesn’t Barack Obama want me to have the medical marijuana?” she asked. Yes, she calls it “the medical marijuana” and is absolutely convinced there’s a difference between what you can get legally with a patient card from a dispensary and the stuff you can buy from that guy your cousin/friend/co-worker knows. “Is it because I didn’t vote for him?”
I realized I had no good answer. The president had promised a more tolerant approach to medical marijuana that wouldn’t circumvent state laws. But U.S. attorneys raised their middle fingers at California and its voters last Friday.
Weekly reporter Rebecca Robinson joined the Oct. 7 conference call announcing their new stance and passed along the transcript. So by way of explaining the feds’ new crackdown on state law and local control, here are the top five highlights:
5. Benjamin Wagner, U.S. attorney for California’s Eastern District, says marijuana cultivators have taken to the great outdoors to grow and are damaging the environment by cutting down trees and plants and polluting the water table with pesticides
I recommend Wagner look to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the pesticide industry and any land developer with an eye on Fort Ord. The EPA approved methyl iodide for use as an ag fumigant, despite the fact that a handful of Nobel-Prize-winning chemists believe it’s going to kill us. In California, it’s being marketed as a strawberry fumigant; I don’t see the feds cracking down on strawberry growers. Meanwhile, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors recently approved the Whispering Oaks Business Park for development on the old Fort Ord. That will require about 3,400 trees to be cut down. Why aren’t the feds storming the BOS chambers?
4. “You can’t walk a mile in my district,” says Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for California’s Northern District, “without seeing a marijuana store.”
Haag’s district includes all of Monterey County, where you can walk a few hundred miles without seeing a marijuana “store.” (By the way, that’s the new vernacular: Rather than calling them dispensaries, the U.S. attorneys are calling them stores.) As both the county and every local city has prevented dispensaries from opening, I would invite Ms. Haag to take a stroll around next time she’s here for a weapons-seizure press event.
3. Haag and Wagner insist the law was never intended to shield commercial operations.
By their interpretation, every dispensary can now be tagged as a “commercial operation.” In a letter written in February, Haag said the feds would go after anyone involved in the unlawful manufacture and distribution of marijuana, “even if such activities are permitted under state law.” The U.S. attorneys issued letters to dozens of dispensaries and their landlords last month, warning them to shut down within 45 days or face criminal charges and asset forfeiture.
2. Both Haag and Wagner contend they’re not going after cancer patients or primary caregivers. Andre Briotte, Jr., U.S. attorney for California’s Central District, points out they are targeting mobile delivery services.
But by threatening to close, and possibly prosecute, everyone from dispensaries to delivery services, the feds are most definitely going after cancer patients and caregivers.
1. “Nobody wants to see our children coming home with marijuana Happy Meals,” says Laura Duffy, U.S. attorney for California’s Southern District.
It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic. Duffy, whose jurisdiction includes San Diego, says “medical marijuana retail stores” are marketing pot cookies, pot bubblegum, soda pop infused with pot – all products, she says, specifically designed for children.
Or, you know, possibly designed for cancer and pain patients who can’t smoke it. (And frankly, I don’t want my kids coming home with Happy Meals at all.)
So sorry Mom: After a few hours parsing through the U.S. Attorney’s statements, I don’t understand their logic any better than when I started.
MARY DUAN is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.