What’s changing for medical pot under Obama?
February 13, 2009
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
Signs abound that federal interest in medicinal marijuana use may be diminishing under the Barack Obama Administration.
But there’s also no indication that such a relaxation in enforcement by U.S. drug authorities would impact San Luis Obispo County much. Or make much of a difference in the eventual outcome of the case of Charles Lynch, the Morro Bay pot dispensary owner convicted under federal law of distribution and now facing federal prison.
An article last week by Associated Press reporter Delvin Barrett cited Obama’s numerous campaign pledges to end federal prosecution of medical pot patients and their caregivers and providers in states where use of the plant is legal if prescribed by a physician. California is one such state.
The Associated Press quoted White House spokesman Nick Shapiro, who said: “The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind.” The wire service said DEA officials in Washington are now declining all comment on the subject.
Lou Koory, a San Luis Obispo attorney representing Lynch, is not optimistic that meaningful change will occur at the federal level: “Same suits,” Koory shrugged.
Just last week, federal drug enforcement agents raided four Los Angeles-area dispensaries and seized 500 pounds of weed.
Lynch was arrested following a months-long investigation by a joint law enforcement team which included San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department personnel, some of whom worked undercover.
Sheriff Pat Hedges has repeatedly and strongly defended his department’s participation in the Lynch investigation, citing his responsibility to “uphold all law.”
Stacey Warde, publisher of the monthly Rogue Voice, said he formally requested sheriff’s reports detailing the level of the department’s involvement and cost to county taxpayers. He said his request was declined.
A Los Angeles woman, Cheryl Aichele, filed a citizen complaint against Hedges and other department employees. She questions the legality of Hedges’ efforts in the Lynch case, and has asked him to “investigate all complaints.” State law requires that the sheriff forward investigated complaints to the California Attorney General.
Undersheriff Steve Bolts told Aichele the department had broken no laws: “It is the department’s position that there are no violations of state or federal law committed by employees in the course of the Lynch investigation,” he wrote in a February 5 letter.
Aichele asserts that Hedges’ department assumed the lead in expensive forensic work for which county taxpayers footed the bill, and spent investigative funds even though federal authorities considered Lynch a low priority.
A rally protesting Lynch’s conviction and Hedges’ role in it will be held at the Federal Courthouse, 312 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, on February 23. Television personality Al Roker interviewed Lynch for a yet-unscheduled MSNBC special called “An Hour on Marijuana.” An ABC 20/20 segment called “Bullsh*t in America” airs February 20 at 7 p.m. PST.