UPDATED BELOW As I worked on this week's story about the federal crackdown on California's marijuana industry, I tried to get a statement from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. After all, it's her job to defend California's medical marijuana laws, which she was fairly supportive of as our district attorney. And she was an early Barack Obama backer who could probably get him or U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on the phone to say, “What the hell are you guys doing? Please, for your own sake and California's, just back off.”
After all, as I reported, this multi-agency federal crackdown could destroy a thriving industry that is pumping billions of dollars into California's economy and employing tens of thousands of people – at a cost of many millions of dollars in enforcement costs to simply destroy the state's top cash crop, ruin the lives of people working in the industry, and strain our already overtaxed court and prison systems.
“It's a policy with no upsides and all downsides,” Steve DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center correctly told me.
But when I finally got Harris' Press Secretary Lynda Gledhill on the phone, she said Harris had nothing to say on the issue. “Nothing?” I asked, “Really?” What about off-the-record, I asked, how does she feel about it and might she make some statement in the future. Again, nothing to say, no comment.
So I tried Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, another San Franciscan who as mayor helped oversee the creation of the city's widely lauded system for regulating the dispensaries, which by all accounts has made it a legitimate and thriving member of the business community. Given Newsom's current obession with job creation and how hungry he's been for attention, surely he'd have something to say in defense of the good jobs that this sustainable industry has created in California. Again, nothing. I haven't even gotten a call back yet from his press secretary, Francisco Castillo.
Also, no public statements have been issued by Mayor Ed Lee, David Chiu, or most other mayoral candidates who have put “jobs” at the center of their agendas – or from the SF Chamber of Commerce or other business groups that regularly deride bad government actions as “job killers – despite this move by the Obama Administration to destroy an important industry in California.
The only major politician from San Francisco (SEE UPDATE BELOW) to come out strongly against the federal crackdown was Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, author of measures to legalize and tax marijuana, who put out the following statement: “I am bitterly disappointed in the Obama Administration for this unwarranted and destructive attack on medical marijuana and patients’ rights to medicine. Today’s announcement by the Department of Justice means that Obama’s medical marijuana policies are worse than Bush and Clinton. It’s a tragic return to failed policies that will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. 16 states along with the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws - whatever happened to the promises he made on the campaign trail to not prosecute medical marijuana or the 2009 DOJ memo saying that states with medical marijuana laws would not be prosecuted? Change we can believe in? Instead we get more of the same.”
But from most of the politicians who claim to support both jobs and the right of patients to access medical marijuana, we also get more of the same. They pander to people's economic insecurities in order to give corporations and wealthy what they want – tax cuts, deregulation, union-busting, corporate welfare -- but aren't willing to risk any political capital defending the rest of us.
UPDATE (11/13): San Francisco's other two representatives in the Legislature have also criticized the crackdown.
Sen. Leland Yee put out a statement saying: “Medical marijuana dispensaries are helping our economy, creating jobs, and most importantly, providing a necessary service for suffering patients. There are real issues and real problems that the US Attorney’s Office should be focused on rather than using their limited resources to prosecute legitimate businesses or newspapers. Like S-Comm, our law enforcement agencies – both state and local – should not assist in this unnecessary action. Shutting down state-authorized dispensaries will cost California billions of dollars and unfairly harm thousands of lives.”
Sen. Mark Leno, another medical marijuana support, also criticized the move. He told the Los Angeles Times, “"The concern here is that the intimidation factor will directly impact safe and affordable access for patients.” And he told Associated Press, “"I don't understand the politics of it, and certainly if we haven't learned anything over the past century, it's that Prohibition does not work.”