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Pot shop director heartened by Obama's comments

Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center in Oakland, said he hopes President Obama's comments about medical marijuana during a Barbara Walters interview prompts federal prosecutors in California to cease a crackdown on the industry that threatens to close his shops.

The U.S. attorney in San Francisco filed a lawsuit in July to seize Harborside's two properties, even though its main dispensary is licensed and regulated by the city of Oakland and seen by many as a model of the industry. A hearing in federal court Dec. 20 could determine whether the dispensary must close.

"It would be a tragedy if the leading example of responsible and legally compliant medical cannabis distribution is shut down next week on the verge of a change in federal policy," DeAngelo said. "The word ironic doesn't just quite have enough bitterness in it."

The president said he is not ready "at this point" to support widespread legalization of marijuana but added: "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined it's legal… We've got bigger fish to fry."

During the ABC News interview, Obama said, "So what we're going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that it's legal?"

DeAngelo said he was heartened that Obama took the question seriously. "He didn't laugh it off as he had before."

He said the pro-pot victories in Colorado and Washington in the November election has pushed an issue that was once "the third rail of politics" to the fore as never before. "I think we've seen a seismic shift that's caused a lot of politicians to recalculate their decisions," he said.

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-- Joe Mozingo

 
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