After working on medical cannabis issues for 10 years, I am rarely shocked by developments in our battle for truth, freedom and compassion. But the unusual public statement just released from Northern California U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has absolutely floored me. Regarding asset forfeiture proceedings undertaken against the commercial landlord of America's largest and most well-known dispensary, Harborside Health Center in Oakland, Calif., Haag said:
This office has used its limited resources to address those marijuana dispensaries that operate close to schools, parks and playgrounds. As I have said in the past, this is a non-exclusive list of factors relevant to whether we should commence civil forfeiture actions against marijuana properties, and circumstances may require us to address other situations.
I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside. The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state's medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need.
This press release demonstrates the U.S. Attorney's contempt for needy patients, licensed doctors, and the capabilities of local officials. But apparently Haag's disrespect extends to local policing and public safety.
The statement coincides with an expose on DEA raids carried out under Haag's command in Oakland in April. According to internal emails uncovered by a citizen journalist, Oakland's police were not consulted on the action against Oaksterdam University. As a result, the understaffed force was ill-prepared to handle large demonstrations, federal agents' lack of an "exit strategy," and the daily crimes that require local police attention. Sapping the OPD's strength with a poorly planned raid may even have affected police response to the Oikos University massacre that occurred the same morning a few miles away.
As a medical cannabis advocate, I know the impact these actions have on medical cannabis patients who lose access to their medicine; that is why I get up every morning to fight this battle. But this development should wake up every American. In her statement, the U.S. Attorney questions the fitness of local and state officials to issue permits in compliance with their own laws, as well as the judgement of licensed doctors making medical recommendations for their patients.
Should a U.S. Attorney be allowed to carry out a moral crusade? Are local and state officials unable to interpret their own laws? Should cannabis enforcement come at the cost of cities' public safety?
Last month, Eric Holder testified to Congress that his policy on medical marijuana is to take action only against those "operating out of compliance with state laws." With Ms. Haag taking federal law enforcement to an extreme, by all appearances, Holder seems unable to control her if he wanted to. To uphold the administration's stated policy, there is no other choice: Haag must be removed from office.
Patients and their advocates say to Attorney General Holder: it is time to put an end to the medical cannabis crusade and replace Ms. Haag. Join us by signing our petition with the Courage Campaign telling Holder to be a man of his word and stop the raids. If you live in Northern California, tell President Obama's campaign to take control of his law enforcement officials and fire Ms. Haag -- call them and say, "I want Obama's administration to stop raiding dispensaries -- fire Melinda Haag!"
President Obama should not underestimate the power of our movement. The medical cannabis movement survived for eight years under Bush, we will survive Obama and we can certainly survive under the likes of Mitt Romney.
Follow Steph Sherer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/stephsherer