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Friday, December 9, 2011

Is Medical Marijuana a Low Priority for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Blindsided as he was during a "bloodbath" of a House Judicial Committee hearing, in which U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was hung out to dry over the teeny-tiny issue of injecting American-made weaponry into the Mexican cartel wars, you could forgive the Justice Department head for mincing his words when Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) asked why, exactly, it is that Holder's lawyers are shutting down state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries. And why, when his own department said in 2009 that so doing was a "low priority."

Except he didn't. He repeated the message of the 2009 Ogden Memo, which gave California medical marijuana users and providers what they say was false hope.

"What we said in the memo, we still intend," Holder said.

Holder isn't the only official whose words don't match his actions. This week, two state governors -- a former Republican and a Democrat -- formally asked the federal government to remove marijuana from the DEA's list of most-dangerous substances. Absent from the conversation was Gov. Jerry Brown.

Vocal in the War on Drugs -- at least from in front of a microphone -- has been Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who told a crowd at the Drug Policy Alliance's conference in Los Angeles last month that the feds' war is wrong.

But is Newsom applying any pressure on Brown, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, or on Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi -- anyone?

All signs point to no.

While Newsom made vague calls for drug reform via his preferred platform of social media, exactly what his priorities are -- aside from living the good life in Marin and waiting for Brown to die -- remains a mystery. Francisco Castillo, spokesman for Gavin Newsom, has ignored numerous requests for comment from SF Weekly. We still love ya, Frank.

And though the lite guv surely has political capital he can burn with California's congressional delegation, whose constituents are losing tax revenue and jobs while federal officials shut down businesses for which the state offers licenses, whether Brown will listen to him might not matter -- especially if Brown isn't listening to constituents.

On Thursday, Kevin Reed, CEO of medical cannabis delivery service The Green Cross, sent a letter to Brown asking him to sign onto the petition sent to reschedule marijuana from Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee.

"California was the first state to adopt a medical marijuana law," wrote Reed, who was the first to receive a San Francisco city permit to legally distribute medical marijuana. "Fifteen years later, our Governor should be among those leading the effort to bridge the divide between state and federal laws!"
Perhaps. But he's not. The Green Cross has yet to receive a response from Brown on this or other missives, according to Caren Woodson, an organizer with Americans for Safe Access who also handles media inquiries for The Green Cross.

"Without doubt, all of California's elected officials could and should do more to support measures to reschedule marijuana, petitions and legislation," Woodson told SF Weekly.

Sure they could. Because, as most scientists and mathematicians could tell you, something is better than nothing. At least there's nowhere to go but up.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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