|Photo: Jesse Tinsley/The Spokane Spokesman-Review|
|Outside the THC Pharmacy medical marijuana dispensary, activists chant “DEA, go away!” in protest on Perry St. in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, April 28, 2011. The DEA raided the dispensary while most dispensary owners and pot activists were at a meeting about how to handle DEA raids.|
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted aggressive, SWAT-style raids on Thursday on at least three dispensaries in Spokane, Washington, that provided medical marijuana to qualified patients.
Earlier this month, numerous facilities shut down after U.S. District Attorney Michael Ormsby threatened numerous landlords in Spokane with seizure of their property if they keep letting their tenants provide medical marijuana to state-compliant patients. These actions come at the same time the state is trying to pass Senate Bill 5073, which modifies Washington’s 1998 medical marijuana law to specifically allow dispensaries.
|Steph Sherer, Americans for Safe Access: “The governor should not buckle to federal pressure”|
”The governor should not buckle to federal pressure,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), which is currently holding raid preparedness training sessions across Washington, and will host a stakeholders meeting in Seattle on Saturday to discuss next steps for safe access in the state.
“Hundreds of not thousands of patients in Washington are now terrified and don’t know where to get their medication,” Sherer said. “It’s incumbent upon Governor Gregoire to stand up for the patients if her state and provide them with a means to safely obtain medical marijuana.”
Ormsby also sent a letter to the governor on April 14 threatening state officials with prosecution if a distribution and licensing system, such as the one proposed by SB 5073, is adopted. In response, Gov. Gregoire has said she will veto parts of the bill that “subject state workers to risk of criminal liability.”
Activists have called the governor’s supposed concerns bogus, since no state employee has ever been arrested for implementing a medical marijuana program in states where medicinal cannabis is legal.
The Washington bill would offer arrest protection to patients and would create a state-licensed and regulated system of producers and dispensaries, provisions that are not protected under current state law.
|Philip Dawdy, WCA: “The governor has flunked tests of leadership”|
”The governor has flunked tests of leadership and compassion with her expected veto,” said Philip Dawdy, media and policy director of the Washington Cannabis Association.
“She’s thumbed her nose at the Legislature and tens of thousands of medical cannabis patients in this state,” Dawdy said. “With her veto of a bill that had been thoroughly vetted by the Legislature, she’s relegating cancer patients and others to black market sources of cannabis and that’s simply not a fair or intelligent move on her part. It’s certainly not in keeping with what voters intended when the approved I-692 in 1998.
Gregoire has announced that she will take formal action on the bill today (Friday, April 29) at 2:30 p.m. in the Governor’s Conference Room in Olympia. Over the last week, she has cited threats by federal officials as the reason for her veto, despite legal scholars informing her that she’s misunderstanding the threats and federal powers.
Although the patient community has several legitimate concerns with the amended legislation, it is eager to implement a distribution licensing system.
Advocates call federal Justice Department attempts to coerce state elected officials — such as Thursday’s raids and the Ormsby letter — “blatant intimidation” in an effort to undermine the full implementation of state law.
Obama’s Justice Department has now made threats to state and local public officials in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana and Washington.
“It’s time for local and state officials to defend the rights and dignity of patients and to stand up to federal bullying,” Sherer said.
As part of a coordinated national day of action in support of two medical marijuana patients surrendering to federal authorities on Monday, noon protests will be held at federal buildings that day in Seattle and Spokane.
The Obama Administration fought to impose five-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentences on Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, attorney Dale Schafer, which they will begin serving on Monday. Fry is a breast cancer survivor, and both are qualified medical marijuana patients in need of medical attention.
ASA gave President Obama a failing grade in a report card the group issued last week as part of its “Sick and Tired” campaign, calling on the federal government to address medical marijuana as public health issue.
Despite a Justice Department memo issued in October 2009, indicating a shift in the government’s enforcement policy, the Administration has since then conducted almost 100 raids in six medical marijuana states.
“President Obama has given us broken promises and half-measures, and patients deserve better,” said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes.