Nov 102011

Medical cannabis patients and several noted industry leaders rallied Wednesday outside the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento. They were there to protest the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries and collective growers, with Assemblymember Tom Ammiano calling on President Obama to order federal enforcement agencies to stand down.

“I support the president, but he is confusing the issue by having these people muddy up the water and violate civil rights and human rights,” Ammiano said. “(Proposition) 215 is to be respected. It is an issue of state rights.”

The rally came days after the 15th anniversary of passage of Prop. 215, California’s Compassionate Use Act. Ammiano said recent enforcement actions by the U.S. Department of Justice and IRS didn’t give medical cannabis patients respect or “the dignity that they deserve.”

“I call again on the (California) attorney general, our governor, my colleagues to come up with a consensual, uniform regulation policy, which then I will introduce as legislation, so we can put this behind us.”

President Obama also was taken to task by Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center, which recently got slapped with a $2.4 million tax bill after IRS audit disallowed Harborside’s deductions for business expenses.

“I want to know, where are you, Mr. President?” DeAngelo said while speaking from the courthouse steps to a crowd of about 200 sign-waving protesters. “Why are you allowing this travesty to unfold?” (Deputy Attorney General James Cole, not Obama, approved the policy change, a DOJ spokeswoman states in this HuffPost report.)

DeAngelo reminded the crowd that medical cannabis patients have endured pressure under previous presidential administrations, including that of George W. Bush. “Ever since we passed Prop. 215 we’ve been threatened, and we’ve been slandered, and we’ve been raided and prosecuted and in too many cases thrown into the darkness of prison,” DeAngelo said. “Indeed, the law has been evaded and frustrated by the very people we look to to enforce our laws. But we have persevered.”

Leading off the speakers was Betty Yee of the California Board of Equalization, the state’s taxing authority. She described the crackdown as an “irrational” approach destined to drive patients and growers underground.

“We are here today — 15 years after California voters approved Prop. 215 — for the same reason we were gathered back then, and that is to ensure safe access to medical cannabis so that Californians can get their medicine without having to commit a crime.”

Check out the Sacramento medical marijuana protest videos on the CalPotNews YouTube channel.

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