Following yesterday’s press conference timed to coincide with the visit of President Barack Obama, San Francisco’s Democrat Assemblymember Tom Ammiano says he’s “pretty pissed off about this unwarranted attack,” referring to the multitude of federal raids orchestrated by the Administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) on California’s medical marijuana dispensaries, their landlords and patients.
The DOJ and federal prosecutors have said the raids are part of an effort to stop the proliferation of for-profit dispensaries and prescribe-for-pay doctor’s offices that have sprouted up in California communities with no local regulations for dispensaries of medical marijuana.
Ammiano is calling upon California’s congressional representatives and citizens to demand the Feds back off. “Nobody’s reining them in. Its un-Democratic and the worst case of thuggery.”
Assemblymember Ammiano says he expects to hear back from Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, who so far have remained publicly silent on the matter.
He also said he and his colleagues will respond with legislation to address the concerns raised by the feds, but first they need to hear what their arguments are. To date, the feds have made no attempt to coordinate the raids with state authorities.
“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 told California Progress Report. “It’s not coordinated, it’s a mess, and we need answers and we need them yesterday.”
Ammiano, who is openly gay, is angered by what he sees as an attempt to destroy years of effort by the LGBT community to make medical marijuana available for compassionate use, which coincided with the AIDS epidemic. The Assemblymember sees the raids by the DOJ as an attack on those suffering from complications associated with HIV, assisting terminally-ill patients with appetite encouragement and relief from pain and nausea for those taking a litany of drug cocktails to thwart the virus.
“It’s a particular insult to our community, our involvement and all our efforts towards passing [proposition] 215,” said Ammiano, who noted that Dennis Peron, who led the campaign to legalize marijuana for compassionate use and Michael Goldstein, who was at San Francisco General yesterday as a result of complications from AIDS, are prime examples of the LGBT community’s close ties to the issue.
And Ammiano says that while he believes the use of Marinol by hospitals is not affected by the Fed’s crackdown, “I don’t know that anything is safe at this point,” he told CPR.
“Where are they going to go with this is not clear at this point. The Department of Justice is now leaning on banks about not financing dispensaries, telling them if they do they will be penalized.”
Ammiano flared at the apparent aggression of the DOJ’s efforts to close the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries statewide while the DOJ remains timid on issues more important to the state’s economic recovery, like bank foreclosures on California homes.
“They’re timid about foreclosures, giving no warnings to banks about them, but they warn banks that lending money to medical marijuana businesses will be punished. And sending letters to landlords saying we are going to put you in jail if you rent to dispensaries, that’s pure thuggery and un-Democratic.”
Ammiano challenged the statewide, indiscriminate nature of the raids, noting the abuses the department has identified are primarily in communities in Southern California like San Diego and Los Angeles that “brought chaos upon themselves by sticking their heads in the sand,” and failing to pass regulations regarding 215’s implementation anywhere during the last 15 years since passage of prop 215, as called for in guidelines by then-State Attorney General, Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
“Without regulations there are all kinds of people who will always take advantage. Without laws on the books it becomes the wild, wild west. And we want that to stop too. But we don’t want medical marijuana to be vitiated by thug mentality.”
Ammiano asks Californians to contact their congressional representatives and ask for accountability from the DOJ on the raids.
Dan Aiello reports for the California Progress Report.