U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday released a statement pushing back against the Obama administration's interference with medical marijuana laws in California and beyond. Her statement comes after medical marijuana advocates delivered a petition earlier that day calling on Pelosi to defend patients from ramped up federal enforcement measures.
"I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California," said Pelosi, "and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana."
Medical marijuana is currently legal in California and 15 other states, plus the District of Columbia, and during his campaign for president, Obama vowed to stop the raids on medical marijuana users that were prevalent under George W. Bush, saying raiding patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes "makes no sense."
Yet since October 2009, the Justice Department has conducted more than 170 aggressive SWAT-style raids in nine medical marijuana states, resulting in at least 61 federal indictments, according to data compiled by Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group. Federal authorities have also seized property from landlords who rent space to growers, threatening them with prosecution, and authorities have even considered taking action against newspapers selling ad space to dispensaries.
Pelosi joins a number of other political figures -- among them Barney Frank, Ron Paul and Pat Robertson -- who have advocated recently in favor of leaving the issue of medical marijuana to the states.
Her full statement reads:
Access to medicinal marijuana for individuals who are ill or enduring difficult and painful therapies is both a medical and a states' rights issue. Sixteen states, including our home state of California, and the District of Columbia have adopted medicinal marijuana laws -- most by a vote of the people.
I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana.
Proven medicinal uses of marijuana include improving the quality of life for patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other severe medical conditions.
I am pleased to join organizations that support legal access to medicinal marijuana, including the American Nurses Association, the Lymphoma Foundation of America, and the AIDS Action Council.
Medicinal marijuana alleviates some of the most debilitating symptoms of AIDS, including pain, wasting, and nausea. The opportunity to ease the suffering of people who are seriously ill or enduring difficult and painful therapies is an opportunity we must not ignore.
For these reasons, I have long supported efforts in Congress to advocate federal policies that recognize the scientific evidence and clinical 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. I will continue to strongly support those efforts.
Below, the states that have legalized medical marijuana: