|California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano: “This is a crisis, and it’s putting patients at risk”|
We’re two months into a confusing crackdown by the federal Department of Justice on medical marijuana dispensaries, and California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is expected to meet soon with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The private meeting is expected to take place next week between Ammiano (D-S.F.) and federal prosecutor Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, reports Dan Aiello at The Bar Area Reporter.
The decision by Haag to meet with Ammiano comes just a week after U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ruled against three Bay Area medical marijuana dispensaries, one of the dispensary’s patients, and another’s landlord.
“U.S. Attorney Haag’s office has responded to our request and Assemblyman Ammiano will be meeting her sometime next week,” said Quintin Mecke, Ammiano’s communications director.
Participants at the meeting have not been confirmed; “no other elected official[s]” will be there, according to Mecke. “This meeting is on behalf of our office,” he said.
Federal prosecutors have threatened dispensaries with eviction, landlords with property seizures, and both with imprisonment. Scattered raids have been reported, with patient records being seized at one dispensary in Sacramento.
Ammiano was critical of the federal government’s interference.
“They’re talking about foreclosures, giving no warnings to banks about them, but they warn banks that lending money to medical marijuana businesses will be punished,” Ammiano said. “And sending letters to landlords saying we are going to put you in jail if you rent to dispensaries, that’s pure thuggery and undemocratic.”
In an interview with the California Progress Report, Ammiano said he and his colleagues in the Assembly want to respond with legislation to address the concerns raised by the feds, but first they needed to hear what those concerns were.
|Dale Gieringer, CA NORML: “Their list of targets includes some of the most respected and best regulated facilities in the state”|
”We want to meet with the Department of Justice, the attorney general, and the governor because if I do come up with legislation to provide statewide regulations to address their concerns we need to know what they are thinking,” Ammiano said. “It’s not coordinated, it’s a mess, and we need answers and we need them yesterday.”
Ammiano said he sees the federal crackdown as an attempt to destroy years of effort by the LGBT community to make medical marijuana available for compassionate use by those suffering from HIV/AIDS and other illnesses.
“It’s a particular insult to our community, our involvement and all our efforts toward passing 215,” Ammiano said. “If they do everything they said they will do, it will undermine years of LGBT work for terminally ill patients.
“This is a crisis, and it’s putting patients at risk,” Ammiano said.
Medical marijuana advocates said the list of dispensaries targeted by the feds includes some of the best-run and best-regulated shops in California.
“Contrary to DOJ claims that they are targeting abusive profiteers, their list of targets includes some of the most respected and best regulated facilities in the state,” said Dale Gieringer, California director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (CA NORML).
Haag’s office, meanwhile, indicated the medical marijuana community should be grateful that she’s just targeting certain dispensaries rather than all of them.
“Although all marijuana stores are illegal under federal law, I decided to use our limited resources to address those that are in close proximity to schools, parks, and playgrounds,” Haag said through DOJ spokesman Jack Gillund.
“I hope that those who believe marijuana stores should be left to operate without restriction can step back for a moment and understand that not everyone shares their point of view, and that my office has received many phone calls, letters and emails from people who are deeply troubled by the tremendous growth of the marijuana industry and its influence on their communities,” Haag said.
Haag added that since her office sent out threatening letters to dispensaries and landlords, “we have received even more complaints relating to schools.”
She said she was speaking only for the Northern District of California and said that the dispensaries contacted by her office are within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, or playgrounds.