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Policy Shift Good News for Medical Marijuana Advocates

Dozens of Dispensaries Raided Under Old Policy


Medical marijuana is displayed in Los Angeles August 6, 2007. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

SALINAS, Calif. - Attorney general Eric Holder announced Wednesday that federal agents will no longer go after marijuana distributors that comply with state law.

Under the Bush administration, pot dispensaries in California were raided by DEA agents for breaking federal law even though they're legal in the state.

"We have tinctures, the medical form in the 30s," said Lisa Molyneux, Greenway Dispensary founder.

Molyneux owns the first licensed pot dispensary in California. She's also a thyroid cancer patient who said there's no substitute for medical marijuana.

"When I was first diagnosed and recommended to use medical cannabis, there were only seven clubs in California. It was very hush-hush," Molyneux said.

Now there are hundreds of buyers' clubs in California.

But, dozens of them were raided by DEA agents under the Bush administration for violating federal law, which lists marijuana as a "schedule one drug" -- along with heroin -- which means it cannot be prescribed as medication.

"I know it's a valuable medicine and I know all the people it helps," Molyneux said.

Under California Proposition 215, passed in 1996, any person with a doctor's recommendation can grow, use and transport medical marijuana.

Holder's announcement was good news for the Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana or WAMM. The organization was raided by the feds in September of 2002.

"What it does for us is it's a blessing," said Valerie Corral, with WAMM.

WAMM is not a buyer's club. It's made up of patients who grow and give away marijuana to other patients who can't afford it.

"The issues been so clouded, so much stigma, that it makes it difficult for people who are sick to access medicine. How many of my friends lost their lives whose illness and suffering was exacerbated by the absence of medicine," Coral said.

California was the first of now 13 total states legalize medical marijuana law.

There are about two dozen California medical marijuana cases pending in federal court. The attorney general did not clarify what will happen to those cases under this shift in federal policy.


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