Revelations of DEA Participation in San Diego Medical Marijuana Raids Raises Questions about White House Policy toward State Law

Press Release September 9, 2009
Media Contact

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli at 213-291-4190 or Tommy McDonald at

SAN DIEGO — At a press conference today, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis described how a number of San Diego medical marijuana dispensaries were raided by local and federal agents yesterday. Advocates condemned the raids and arrests of patients, and criticized federal involvement in a local political effort to restrict legal access to medical marijuana.

“We’re extremely disappointed that the feds participated in this attack on patients. The priority of the White House should be protecting patients, not helping local officials enforce oppressive restrictions,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Any concerns that the District Attorney may have will not be resolved through SWAT-style tactics like pulling people from their wheelchairs, as we saw yesterday.”

Medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, when voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act. San Diego County filed suit to try to overturn the state law in 2004; that effort came to an end in May when the US Supreme Court refused to hear the county’s final appeal. In August, the county enacted a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas to so the county could develop land-use regulations.

On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council voted 6-1 to establish a citizen’s taskforce to create regulations governing the supply of medical marijuana. According to San Diego’s Channel 10, the taskforce will devise “guidelines for medical marijuana patients and caregivers, the operation of dispensaries and growing cooperatives and the ground rules for police enforcement.”

“The federal government has no business enforcing state and local medical marijuana laws. It’s our local governments’ job to regulate medical marijuana and enforce those rules — not with armed raids, but with civil actions,” said Ms. Dooley-Sammuli. “The Obama administration has allowed Ms. Dumanis to use federal resources to further obstruct implementation of Prop 215 as she prepares to run for re-election in 2010. The people of San Diego deserve better.”

The involvement of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in yesterday’s raids came as a surprise to some, because of statements by both President Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder that suggested that the federal government would reduce its involvement in such enforcement actions in states where medical marijuana is legal.

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

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