By Paul Schneider
An amendment that would protect state medical marijuana programs from federal interference recently passed through the Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 21-9.
Of those 9 “nays,” only one was from a Democrat—U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein from California. And for one advocacy group in the Golden State, enough was enough. The Drug Policy Alliance, led by Amanda Reiman, Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the group, delivered 11,000 petitions to Feinstein’s office on July 7 in an effort to sway the long-time legislator’s opinion on the subject.
“Senator Feinstein has not been a supporter for quite some time,” Reiman said via phone this week. “She’s running in contrast to the opinions of all the Democrats in California that the federal government should not interfere. We feel she should be leading the way in helping people get access to medical marijuana. We just want her to be on the right side of history.”
Reiman’s organization has been working for over a decade to advocate for and assisting Californians with medical marijuana issues. During that time, she says DPA has developed a healthy working relationship with Sen. Feinstein’s staff. The problem, she says, is the senator herself.
“We met with her staff for over an hour [Tuesday] and they were respectful, like they always are,” Reiman said. “But we’re not going to take this from her anymore. We’re just not gonna sit back and let her [continue to interfere]. She’s not protecting the people who voted this into law 20 years ago.”
California became the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana in 1996 with the passage of the California Compassionate Use Act. Since then, over 1,000 dispensaries have opened their doors, serving almost 1.5 million clients.
Despite the numbers, Feinstein has remained a staunch opponent of the drug. In 2010 she co-chaired the campaign to defeat Proposition 19, an initiative that would have legalized various marijuana-related activities, permitted local government bodies to regulate and collect taxes and fees, and impose various criminal and civil penalties. The measure was narrowly defeated after 53 percent voted against it.
More recently, she co-authored and co-signed a letter to former Attorney General Eric Holder in January expressing concern that “changes to some state marijuana laws may…damage our standing as an international leader on drug control issues.” She went on to ask that more research be conducted on the effects of medicinal cannabis.
“I think what we’re trying…with Dianne Feinstein is to show her and the national leadership and the Senate and House that California’s elected officials and representatives are getting more united on this issue,” said Andrew DeAngelo, Operations Director of Harborside Health Center, the largest dispensary in the state. “She has an enormous amount of seniority and has been in that body for a long time and has a tremendous amount of influence. I think we’re trying to get her to use that influence to help the people in the state of California.
“You know how President Obama evolved on the issue of gay marriage? We’re trying to get Feinstein to evolve on this issue. A lot of patients need her support right now.”
Added Reiman, “She keeps asking for more research, but that’s not what [the petitions] are about. We’re just telling her to not let the federal government interfere.”