Wash., Colo. Pot Smokers Safe from Persecution: Obama

Obama: going after "recreational users" would not be a "top priority"

Friday, Dec 14, 2012  |  Updated 1:40 PM PDT
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SD Explained: Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana patients

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SD Explained: Medical Marijuana

The issue of pot shops has been a political rollercoaster over the past several months. Catherine Garcia and voiceofsandiego.org's Scott Lewis explain the tracks. Get more from voiceofsandiego.org here.
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While backers of new laws that legalized marijuana in Washington and Colorado were cautiously optimistic after President Barack Obama said Uncle Sam wouldn't pursue pot users in those states, one local advocate said the atmosphere in San Diego was still one of fear.

Following the November votes in Washington and Colorado the Justice Department reiterated that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but had been vague about what its specific response would be.

In a Barbara Walters interview airing Friday on ABC, President Barack Obama said: "It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view" to focus on drug use in states where it is now legal.

“Although the comments of the president are encouraging, on the ground, in actual reality, we have not seen those comments translate into reality,” said Eugene Davidovich of San Diego Americans for Safe Access (ASA), an organization that supports the use of cannabis for medicinal reasons.

“Patients fear walking into a dispensary and being raided by the local Narcotics Task Force for simply getting medicine,” Davidovich said.

San Diego-area medicinal marijuana advocates report a “ramping up” of local authorities targeting collective delivery services in San Diego County recently.

Davidovich claimed one cannabis delivery service was targeted Thursday by members of the Narcotics Task Force.

Marijuana activists were relieved at Obama's comments, but still had questions about how regulation will work.

They said even if individual users aren't charged with crimes, marijuana producers and sellers could be subject to prosecution, civil forfeiture and other legal roadblocks.

In San Diego County, federal agents worked with local authorities to shut down dispensaries of medicinal marijuana earlier this year.

In fact, in February, four dispensaries were shuttered in just one week under a landlord law. At the time, Special Agent Amy Roderick with the U.S. Attorney’s Office told NBC 7 San Diego "We will eventually close every single one down in San Diego County."

In the ABC interview, President Obama didn't specifically address how the federal government would respond to state officials in Washington and Colorado, who under the new laws are now tasked with coming up with regulations for commercial pot sales.

Obama simply told Walters that going after "recreational users" would not be a "top priority."
 

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