Scroll To Top

Back to the Future

Back to the Future


It was music to the ears of HIV-health advocates when U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder announced in February that the federal government would end its campaign to bring down medicinal marijuana distribution and use in states that have passed laws to allow it. The action removes the cloud of fear of arrest and imprisonment that loomed over the heads of growers, dispensers, and users of prescription pot during the eight years of the Bush administration. Ending the federal Drug Enforcement Agency raids'which were frequent, particularly in California, under President George W. Bush'marks a dramatic shift from the previous administration's ideologically driven policies to the more tolerant, science-driven positions of the Obama administration. 'If true, hallelujah,' Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says of Holder's pledge. But he adds that history makes him wary of celebrating too soon, recalling that President Clinton also claimed to support medicinal cannabis but did little to stop DEA raids and federal marijuana prosecutions. 'The proof will be in the pudding regarding actions, not words,' St. Pierre says, noting that a true litmus test for the new administration will be what happens to the sentences and indictments of some 35 people involved in growing or distributing medicinal pot who are in federal prison or awaiting trial. In words'if not yet deeds'Obama seems significantly more supportive of medicinal cannabis than his Republican predecessor. During a November 2007 presidential campaign stop in Iowa, Obama told reporters, 'My attitude is, if the science and the doctors suggest that the best palliative care and the way to relieve pain and suffering is medical marijuana, then that's something I'm open to. There's no difference between that and morphine when it comes to just giving people relief from pain.' So far, 13 states have voted to permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and more are likely to join their ranks in the coming years. Of the 30 to 40 dispensaries shuttered by the feds under the Bush administration, California-based concerns took the biggest hit. 'Ever since we opened our doors 2' years ago we've had to live with the threat of a federal raid and possibly being charged and imprisoned for many years,' says Stephen DeAngelo, chief executive of Harborside Health Center, a holistic clinic in Oakland, Calif., that distributes marijuana to people who have a prescription for its use. 'It's a huge relief for us,' he says of the policy change.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Benjamin Ryan