In April 2011, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cracked down on at least three marijuana distribution facilities in Spokane, Washington. The aggressive SWAT-style raids focused on facilities that distributed medical marijuana to qualified patients.
Washington State is trying to pass Senate Bill 5073 which intends to modify the state’s medical marijuana laws to create an organized distribution system – but meanwhile, District Attorney Michael Ormsby issued threats to Spokane landlords, saying the state would seize their properties if they allowed their tenants to distribute marijuana to state-compliant patients. He also sent a letter to the governor warning that state officials would face prosecution if a distribution licensing system is passed. Governor Gregoire responded that she plans to veto parts of the bill that “subject state workers to risk of criminal liability.” While medical marijuana patients have expressed concern about the proposed legislation, they are eager for a distribution licensing system to be implemented.
“The governor should not buckle to federal pressure,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group that holds raid preparedness drills across Washington. The ASA alsoed host a stakeholders meeting in Seattle to discuss next steps for safe access to medical marijuana in the state.
“Hundreds if not thousands of patients in Washington are now terrified and don’t know where to get their medication,” Sherer said. “It’s incumbent upon Governor Gregoire to stand up for the patients in her state and provide them with a means to safely obtain medical marijuana.”
Advocates say that attempts by the federal Justice Department and Ormsby are blatant attempts at intimidation. To date, Obama’s Justice Department has now made threats to state and local public officials in the states of California, Colorado, Washington, Montana, and Hawaii.
The Obama administration imposed mandatory five-year prison sentences for Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer. Both are qualified medical marijuana patients – Dr Fry is a breast cancer survivor – and both require medical attention.
The ASA called on the federal government to address medical marijuana as a public health issue. The organization gave President Obama a dismally failing grade; ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes stated that “President Obama has given us broken promises and half-measures, and patients deserve better.” Despite a 2009 Justice Department memo that indicated a potential shift in the government’s enforcement policy, the Obama administration has conducted nearly 100 distribution facility raids in six medical marijuana states.