Revolution #278, August 19, 2012

From a Reader

Heartless Attacks on Medical Marijuana Put Lives at Risk

Major moves are afoot in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area to close medical marijuana dispensaries, forcing patients who rely on cannabis for a variety of medical reasons to go underground and become criminalized in search of relief. Government officials, from the Obama White House to the Los Angeles City Council, are sending a message that they are stepping up repression of the people through the enforcement of federal anti-drug laws—no matter that 17 states, including California, have laws on the books that make legal the distribution of medical marijuana.

On July 12, in Oakland, California, Melinda Haag, federal prosecutor for California's Northern District, moved to close Harborside Health Center, the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the country, which would deprive more than 100,000 members of much-needed medicine. The federal government has already targeted others in California, including a raid on Oaksterdam University, which offers training in the medical marijuana industry. The raid shut down the university, forcing it to reorganize under new management.

On July 24, the Los Angeles City Council voted to close all medical pot dispensaries immediately (with the possibility of allowing older, more established dispensaries to reopen). The measure would allow patients and their caregivers to grow and share marijuana in groups of three or fewer, putting the burden of time and expense on these vulnerable and already overburdened people. (One dispensary owner said it costs about $5,000 to grow marijuana at home.)

When Obama was running for president in 2008, he declared that medical marijuana was best regulated at the state and city levels, not by the federal government. "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," he promised. Yet, in a hypocritical about-face about a year and a half ago, his administration began an unprecedented crackdown on medical marijuana, busting growers who were in full compliance with state laws, threatening to seize property (as in the case of Harborside), even threatening to imprison state employees doing their job of regulating medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Obama's 100 plus raids on pot dispensaries since coming to office is on pace to exceed Bush's record for medical marijuana busts, threatening the health and the very lives of over 700,000 cannabis users across the country. Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said "There's no question that Obama's the worst president on medical marijuana."

Obama's fundraising stop in Oakland on July 23 was met with protesters, hundreds of whom came out specifically to demonstrate against Obama's heartless moves to make safe, high-quality medical marijuana illegal. Among those speaking out were Helena and Horace Welch, both 59 years old. Horace Welch uses cannabis to ease post-surgery back pain, and Helena Welch uses it to ease the pain of arthritis in her spine and knee. "Now we have to be afraid of where we can go, if we don't have access," she said.

Jason David, whose son has Dravet syndrome (a rare and debilitating form of epilepsy), also spoke. By the age of 5, Jayden David had ridden in an ambulance 45 times, tried 22 different medications from around the world, none of which worked, and suffered at least one seizure every day of his life. But with high-grade, non-psychoactive tincture of cannabis, he has experienced multiple days without seizures and an overall greater quality of life. Jayden's father pleaded, "Don't let me lose my son."

Harborside co-founder and executive director Steve DeAngelo stated, "The closure of Harborside would have an especially destructive effect on our most medically challenged patients, like Jayden David, who need pure and specialized cannabis medicines unavailable at other dispensaries. They are less able to negotiate the dangers of the illegal marketplace, and cannot risk using untested cannabis from unregulated sources."

Most people know that using pot can cause the munchies. Imagine you are dealing with the ravaging side-effects of cancer treatment that have made it nearly impossible to keep food down. But then, there is a safe and effective medication that can alleviate the nausea and vomiting, not only improving quality of life but speeding up your recovery. That medication is pot.

Browse the web and you will find thousands of testimonials from individuals who have used marijuana to deal with a plethora of medical issues: from depression and anxiety to the effects of chemotherapy and major surgery, from PTSD to agoraphobia (the fear of going out in public), from Asperger's syndrome to bipolar disorder, from epilepsy to providing dying patients with not only an appetite, but also a sense of calm and relief from pain.

It is a heartless system that criminalizes those whose lives are made more bearable by using medically approved marijuana. The war on drugs, which fuels the outrageous and unrelenting mass incarceration of a generation of Black and Latino youth, continues, leaving an ever wider swath of broken and damaged lives in its wake.



"Obama's War on Pot," by Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, February 16, 2012
Harborside Health Center
"Oakland Pot Club Vows To Fight Federal Crackdown," CBS San Francisco, July 12, 2012


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