Four months after the Supreme Court upheld the right of the federal government to crack down on the sale and use of medical marijuana, California’s 150,000 medical marijuana patients are still puffing freely, reports the Chicago Tribune. When California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, medical marijuana became legal under state law but remained illegal under federal law. In San Francisco, federal agents largely stayed away from 34 marijuana dispensaries in the city until this past summer, when the Drug Enforcement Administration closed three clubs, as some of the dispensaries are known, and charged 19 people with using the clubs as drug-trafficking and money-laundering fronts for organized crime. DEA said the raids, part of Operation Urban Harvest, were part of a two-year investigation and were not related to the Supreme Court decision.
“The clubs are not being raided, but people are scared,” said Hilary McQuie of Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based coalition. Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said a ramped-up federal assault on medical marijuana is unlikely. “For the feds to come into a state of a Republican governor who has explicitly said he supports medical marijuana and start busting people–to tromp state and local rights and a law that is supported by 70 percent of the people–would be a particularly defiant thing to do,” Nadelmann said. At the local DEA office, agent in charge Javier Pena says, “We investigate large traffickers. We’re not after the users, the sick people, the dying people.”