DEA Continues to Raid California Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, Despite Obama

Press Release February 4, 2009
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Bill Piper at (202) 669-6430

On the day President Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, took office, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided several medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles. The raids come on the heels of a DEA raid on a medical marijuana dispensary two weeks ago in South Lake Tahoe. The raids contradict positions President Obama stated on the campaign trail last year and leave some wondering if he’s no different than Bush on this matter.

“When President Bush was on the campaign trail in 2000 he promised not to interfere in state medical marijuana laws, but that turned out to be a lie as the DEA proceeded to terrorize medical marijuana patients and providers by raiding dozens of dispensaries across California,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “President Obama said on the campaign trail that these raids would end under his administration and millions believed him. We hope these recent raids don’t represent official Administration policy and that Obama will order federal agencies in no uncertain terms to stop harassing medical marijuana patients and providers in California.”

In March of 2008 candidate Obama said, “my attitude is that if it’s an issue of doctors prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma or as a cancer treatment, I think that should be appropriate because there really is no difference between that and a doctor prescribing morphine or anything else.” While he said changing federal law to expand access to medical marijuana would not be a priority of his administration, “[w]hat I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

An Obama spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle last May: “Voters and legislators in the states — from California to Nevada to Maine — have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering. Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice.”

The recent medical marijuana raids likely spring from investigations begun under President Bush, but the number and intensity of the raids call into question who really is in charge in the Obama Administration. Medical marijuana advocates are urging President Obama to stand up and reign in the DEA.

“President Obama needs to show federal agencies who is boss,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “If he doesn’t put a halt to these raids, the DEA will continue to undermine his campaign promises.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

Sign up for updates from DPA.