MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Oakland Deputizes Cannabis Club Employees
The city of Oakland "folded a local cannabis club under its wing" yesterday, making it "the first municipality in the nation to distribute medical marijuana to the seriously ill," the Oakland Tribune reports. The city officially declared "employees of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative officers of the city." Attorneys for the city and cannabis club believe the move will "shield" the employees from "criminal and civil prosecution" (Kirkwood, 8/14). "As officers enforcing an ordinance and a law involving controlled substances, they have immunity through federal, criminal and civil liability. And that is what provisions of the federal statute provide," said Robert Raich, attorney for the Oakland club ("All Things Considered," NPR, 8/13). The Los Angeles Times reports that the city is using a provision of the Federal Controlled Substance Act -- "the same act the federal government is using in its attempt to close the club" -- that stipulates that "officers enforcing local drug ordinances are immune from prosecution for possessing, buying and selling illegal drugs in the course of their police work" (Curtius, 8/14).
Time To Act
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the "novel tactic steps up the counterattack against the federal government's continuing efforts to shut down Northern California pot clubs." Federal authorities are trying to shut down a total of three clubs in the region by the month's end (Walker, 8/14). Nate Miley, the city councilmember who drafted the proposal, said that "draconian, oppressive and Neanderthal" action taken by the federal government in closing the pot club spurred the move. "The City Council felt we needed to be out on the frontier and not just continue to be under attack by the state and federal government," he said (Oakland Tribune, 8/14).
Bob Weiner, a spokesperson for federal drug czar Barry McCaffery, "said his office will have to study the city's actions." He added, though, that "science, not politics" should decide the law -- "and thus far, science hasn't determined that marijuana is medicine" (Mecoy/Maxwell, Sacramento Bee, 8/14). Gregory King, spokesperson for the U.S. Justice Department, said, "I would discourage them from jumping to any premature conclusions" about the protections they are claiming under the law (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/14). The Los Angeles Times reports that Attorney General Dan Lungren's office says Oakland's move "is probably illegal." Lungren spokesperson Matt Ross said: "Proposition 215 allows for three things. For a doctor to recommend the use of medical marijuana to a patient, for a patient to use or grow marijuana for medical use and for a primary caregiver to provide it. ... [Yesterday's] actions by the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club and the city of Oakland don't seem to meet any of those three options." However, Ross said the attorney general's office does not plan to move against the city or club, contending such a move is the responsibility of the Alameda County district attorney's office. Jeff Rubin, deputy district attorney for Alameda County, said his "office would not get involved with the Oakland club unless law enforcement officials found evidence of crimes being committed" (8/14). "The club operates in a very business-like fashion, it operates like a clinic, it's very professionally run, it's a very important element in our community," said Miley ("All Things Considered," 8/14). The city of Oakland recently voted to allow terminally ill patients to have on hand up to 1 1/2 pounds of marijuana.