U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s war on medical marijuana is a violation of current federal Department of Justice policy, an embarrassment to the President of the United States and is, literally, threatening the health and safety of our community. She should be removed from her post, immediately.
Haag’s latest outrage is her attempt to shutdown Harborside Health Center in San Jose, as well as its sister collective in Oakland. Harborside is one of the good dispensaries. They comply with current state law, are located in an industrial area of San Jose, use proper protocols and pay their city taxes. Harborside is the model for a good citizen.
Haag’s actions are in direct violation of the Obama administration policy. Attorney General Eric Holder stated in a memo: “We limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law.”
James Anthony, a lawyer and medical marijuana expert agreed.
“She is in direct contradiction of Administration Policy,” said Anthony, who handles legal matters for the Citizen’s Coalition for Patient Care (CCPC). “She is waging a war on cannabis patients.”
Haag’s rogue actions call into question who is in charge at the Department of Justice. The president has consistently promised not to use federal resources to contravene current state laws.
Haag’s misguided focus on closing medical marijuana dispensaries is also a threat to public health and safety. In going after Harborside, and those who provide patients with medicine and comply with state law, she is ignoring the real bad guys. In San Jose, we know where the bad operators of medical cannabis are located. These operators are a blight to the neighborhood, a nuisance to their neighbors and they fail to pay their taxes, as mandated by Measure U.
Former State Senator John Vasconcellos, who led in the fight for medical marijuana in California, is disturbed and dismayed by Haag’s assault on patients and the effect of her stance on the community.
“Ms. Haag is violating the will of the people of California, the law of our sovereign state, is endangering the good health of the people of California and ignoring the state of the science which has established marijuana has therapeutic benefits,” Vasoconcellos said. “She is closing down safe, legitimate access to good medicine thereby diverting deserving patients into the underground black market.
“This U.S. Attorney is doubling the price of patient’s medicine, doubling the profits of drug gangs and enabling the violence associated with illegal drugs,” he added.
Vasconcellos also expressed concern that Haag’s actions would be detrimental politically to the president in the national election. President Obama benefitted in 2008 from a large turnout of younger, educated voters. The concern is that they either won’t show-up or cast a protest vote for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who supports legalizing marijuana.
“Ms. Haag is, by her wanton behavior and silly posturing, alienating many California voters and is an embarrassment and a threat to the reelection of the president.” Vasconcellos said.
The city of San Jose currently has a list of bad operators, and these are the folks Haag should be targeting—not operators like Haborside. It would take her less than an hour to get the information from the city and less than a day to shut down these illicit operations. But if Haag insists on targeting dispensaries like Harborside, while allowing the scofflaws to operate, she exacerbates the problem she claims to be solving.
If Haag is after headlines, one operator—Dave Hodges of the All-American Cannabis Club (A2C2)—welcomes being shut down. In September of 2011, he told Metro that his original plan was to be raided in two months after opening. Hodges refuses to pay taxes, openly flaunts the law, and enjoys the notoriety. But his brazen civil disobedience is disruptive within the legitimate medical marijuana community and he gives the industry a bad name.
Hodges, as a ubiquitous if less than credible advocate for the scofflaws of medical cannabis, would be the perfect foil for Ms. Haag. But her focus on Harborside makes a mockery of the government’s enforcement efforts.
It is the epitome of irony. Haag’s lack of judgment, in addition to her direct assault on her bosses’ stated policies, is the impetus to let her go. And if the administration is loath to fire her for political reasons, may we suggest a transfer? Nome, Alaska would be a good choice. That state welcomes rogue, overly-aggressive and intellectually challenged leaders.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley who has worked under contract on the city of San Jose’s medical marijuana policies.