Obama Eases Medical Pot Prosecutions in 14 States

October 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Monday's announcement comes as local cities like Fresno and Visalia are trying to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries. The Obama Administration is telling federal prosecutors to leave medical marijuana users and suppliers alone, as long as they conform to state laws.

This is a victory for medicinal marijuana advocates. The Bush Administration had always insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state laws. But President Obama promised to change that for the 14 states, including California, that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. But individual cities have other plans.

On Monday night, the Visalia City Council will consider imposing a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. This would mean the city would not issue any permits for dispensaries for up to two years as the city looks into some of the legal issues other California cities are facing.

Recently the Visalia planning commission denied an application for a dispensary.

In Fresno, the city obtained a restraining order against nine medical marijuana dispensaries. Medical marijuana users are still allowed to light up, but the judge's order means the City of Fresno can enforce a zoning ordinance saying dispensaries are breaking federal law if they sell pot to patients.

Several of the businesses defied the order by staying open, and at least one dispensary is appealing the order.

In a departure from The Bush Administration, the federal government is essentially telling federal prosecutors in the 14 states where medical marijuana is legal to leave the dispensaries alone. They said it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are in compliance with state law.

No word on what this new policy will mean for the City of Fresno's legal battle with the local dispensaries, or whether it will affect the Visalia City Council's decision Monday on a moratorium.




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