Pot clubs pressure Newsom
by Matthew S. Bajko
Advocates of medical marijuana continue to press Mayor Gavin Newsom to denounce the latest tactic federal agents are wielding against the city's pot clubs.
At a news conference on the steps of City Hall Monday, February 4 a group of 30 medical marijuana patients, their supporters, and local politicians urged the mayor to speak out publicly against the Drug Enforcement Administration's decision to target landlords who rent to cannabis dispensaries.
DEA agents have threatened to seize the property owners' buildings if they do not evict the pot clubs. The DEA's latest move has incensed local activists, who have urged Bay Area politicians to stand up against it.
"We call on Mayor Newsom to stand up with us. We will not retreat from what we know in our hearts is right," said Shona Gochenaur, executive director of the local patient advocacy group Axis of Love and chair of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club's Cannabis Caucus.
"We are tired of his silence. Please step up and do the right thing," urged Michael Goldstein, a past Milk Club president and vice chair of the city's lowest priority oversight committee, which ensures that the police department adheres to a city policy making marijuana crimes its lowest priority.
So far Newsom has remained silent on the latest salvo from federal authorities, who refuse to recognize cannabis as a legitimate drug. His spokesman, Nathan Ballard, did not respond to a request for comment by press time this week.
The mayor's inaction has dumbfounded activists considering he told reporters late last year that the nation's war on drugs was "an abject failure" and has been a vocal supporter of medical marijuana for years.
Other politicians are speaking up. Berkeley's City Council last week passed a resolution backed by its two openly gay members, Darryl Moore and Kriss Worthington, asking its police force and Alameda County officials not to cooperate with the DEA.
State Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) introduced a similar resolution into the state Senate last month. Migden showed up at Monday's event, and while she did not mention Newsom, she did criticize President Bush and his administration for wasting resources on this latest campaign against pot clubs.
"We stand here fed up and we will not allow it," said Migden.
Last week San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly submitted a resolution to the Board of Supervisors that would include property owners under the city's sanctuary status for medical cannabis. The board's City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee will likely take up the resolution at its February 14 meeting.
"Hopefully, we will reconfirm our position as a sanctuary city," Daly said.