On Feb. 12, the day John Ashcroft and the FBI warned that the danger of a new terrorist attack was especially acute, the Drug Enforcement Administration decided that the best possible use of scarce federal agents was to raid a medical marijuana distribution center in San Francisco. Three people were taken into custody and face charges that could bring them 40-year sentences.
DEA honcho Asa Hutchinson had already been scheduled to give a speech at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club that evening. Presumably, the raids were timed to demonstrate that the new administration is going to be tough on people who use marijuana for medical reasons, which is legal under California state law. Instead of warming Hutchinson’s welcome, angry protesters filled the street in front of the club to protest the raid, which was also denounced by San Francisco DA Terence Hallinan and half the board of supervisors. Inside, the audience was also packed with people who objected to it. Despite the Commonwealth Club’s policy of trying to present speakers with half friendly and half hostile questions, no one in the audience asked a friendly question.
Now, San Francisco is not America. But federal drug warriors cannot be comforted that this anger came only from stoned-out dregs from Haight-Ashbury. Every poll shows that 60 to 70% of Americans want marijuana to be made available by prescription. The Institute of Medicine report commissioned by Hutchinson’s predecessor showed that, contrary to what Hutchinson claims to believe, the scientific evidence of marijuana’s benefits in some maladies is accepted virtually unanimously, and researchers are excited about promising new therapies that could be developed from intensive studies of the herb. The drug warriors are bucking science, compassion, and public opinion because the self-referential, parochial crowd inside the Beltway still thinks”weakness” in the Holy War is political poison.