Pot smokers with proper papers in California can exhale in a sigh of relief. Federal drug agents won't be wasting their time raiding medical marijuana dispensaries here and in 13 other states that share similar laws.
The Obama Administration will release new guidelines Monday involving medical marijuana that discourage police and federal agents from arresting patients and suppliers as long as they're following state laws.
The new guidelines are in line with a campaign promise Obama made during his presidential campaign.
Justice Department leaders say it's not a good use of time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in compliance with state laws. Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington also have state laws similar to California's, allowing use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Under Proposition 215, more commonly known as California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996, patients with a valid doctor's recommendation are legally allowed to posses, grow and use marijuana for medical reasons. But advocates in California have pushed to legalize marijuana for more than just medical purposes.
Former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who hails from the Alameda County, launched a statewide signature-gathering effort last month aimed at reforming the state's marijuana laws. He announced the campaign at the annual conference of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in San Francisco.
Another popular Bay Area lawmaker, San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, has proposed a law that would regulate marijuana like alcohol, allowing people over 21 to grow, buy and posses the weed.
The Tax Cannabis 2010 effort was inspired by Oakland's successful move to tax medical marijuana. The city's forward-thinking approach to marijuana, including the famed Oaksterdam University, prompted Newsweek magazine recently to crown Oakland America's pot capital.
Advocates are gathering signatures to get as many as three pot-legalization measures on next year's ballot in California. One poll shows voters would support legalizing marijuana outright. Many experts have pointed out that legalizing and taxing marijuana could pull California out of the debt.
Oakland is setting an example of how taxing the green can generate real green for the city. It became the first U.S. city to put a tax on medical marijuana with a 2009 vote that garners an $18 tax on every $1,000 in gross marijuana sales. It's estimated to bring in up to a million dollars per year to help the cash-strapped city.
Medical marijuana advocates have been anxious to see how the president would make good on his campaign promise to change the policy.
The new policy is just one of the huge shifts in attitude from the Bush Administration, which insisted on enforcing federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes. But shortly after Obama took office, DEA agents raided four medcial marijuana clubs in Los Angeles, prompting confusion about the president's plans.