Federal drug czar John Walters visited San Francisco yesterday and warned city officials not to distribute marijuana under a voter-approved initiative or risk prosecution. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, went to praise a church’s drug treatment programs and to promote the administration’s plan to fund local efforts against urban drug abuse.
He spent much of his time fielding questions about medical marijuana, the target of federal prosecutions since California voters approved its use in 1996. A year ago, San Francisco voters passed Proposition S, which required a study of official city cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. If city officials implemented the measure by providing pot to patients, Walters said, “it would be a violation of federal law. The tendency is to talk about marijuana as if it was trivial, he said, but it is an increasingly serious drug problem. Walters said youths are smoking marijuana at earlier ages than ever before, and “more teenagers are seeking treatment for marijuana dependency than for all other drugs combined.”
District Attorney Terence Hallinan, met with Walters, said the drug czar’s reaction to Proposition S showed that the city should move cautiously in implementing the ballot measure.
As Walters spoke, about 25 demonstrators stood across the street carrying signs that denounced federal marijuana policy and called Walters a liar. Organizers of the protest and Glide’s pastor, the Rev. Cecil Williams, are holding a forum on medical marijuana at the church today.