California, feds still at odds over marijuana laws

July 7, 2011 6:59:19 PM PDT
Marijuana supporters took their battle to legalize it to the streets of Oakland Thursday and straight to the federal government. A recent warning from the feds does not seem to be deterring the protesters, or city leaders for that matter.

That protest took place at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland Thursday afternoon as a medical marijuana grower facing federal charges had a hearing. But just around the corner, city leaders will begin debating next week a plan to open large marijuana growing facilities even though feds say that it is illegal.

Protesters chanted outside Oakland's federal building as a hearing went on inside to determine the fate of Scott Feil. The Lake County resident was legally allowed to grow medical marijuana by the state, but he is now facing federal drug charges.

Neither Feil nor the feds would talk, but Feil's supporters say no plea deal was reached and it appears Feil is headed to trial.

"Scott is a service provider that provides medicine to low and low income patients," medical marijuana supporter Gregory Ledvetter said.

It is the second setback of late for medical marijuana supporters. The Obama administration made it clear last week it will not allow large scale growing operations even if state law allows them. In a letter to federal prosecutors, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote, "Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law."

"It will give some elected officials pause, but some will stand up," medical marijuana supporter Richard Lee said.

And that is exactly what Oakland appears to be doing. The city was considering allowing growers to open four enormous marijuana warehouses, and despite the letter the City Council's Public Safety Committee will consider next week a scaled down version limiting the spaces to 25,000 square feet.

The Mayor Jean Quan says the letter did not provide cities like hers any more clarity on the hazy issue.

"It's been an ongoing struggle to try to get the state laws and fed laws in sync, so it's just another ongoing part of this battle," Quan said.

The City Council will take up this issue of marijuana cultivation at its Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday.


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