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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

July 23, 2012 at 2:31 PM

Medical marijuana protests in Seattle on eve of Obama visit

A small group of medical-marijuana advocates tried to get arrested outside President Obama’s Seattle campaign headquarters today, to spotlight what they consider his failure to follow through on a 2008 campaign promise.

The group — about 40 patients, advocates and operators of medical-marijuana dispensaries — were turned away at the Rainier Avenue South building about noon, but rallied, without arrest, on the sidewalk, carrying  signs reading, “Fight Crime, Not Cannabis,” and chanting, “We’re patients and we vote!”

No representative from the Obama campaign would meet with them. An Obama campaign spokeswoman, Ofelia Casillas, referred questions to the White House.

Obama is scheduled to hold a fundraiser at Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal’s home tomorrow and spend the night. Greta Carter, organizer of today’s protest, said the protest was planned in connection with a rally in Oakland, Calif., for that city’s Harborside Health Center, which is facing a federal property forfeiture action.

The Obama administration has been the most aggressive yet in targeting businesses and nonprofits that dispense medical marijuana. Advocates read a 2009 Department of Justice memo (the “Ogden memo”)  as a green light to expand medical marijuana access, but U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the country — and in Washington state — have cracked down on now-ubiquitous dispensaries they say are flouting federal law.

The action against Harborside — pioneer of the dispensary model that is now ubiquitous in Seattle and in medical marijuana states — has become a call to arms this campaign season. The Obama campaign, for example, faces headwinds from medical marijuana advocates in Colorado, a swing state in 2012.

“(Obama) got the young voters because he said he inhaled,” said protester Christina Purington, 28, of Seattle, referring to Obama’s admission in his 1995 memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” of frequent dabbling in pot. “So is it okay for him to use it recreationally, but his administration is interfering with my medicine?”

Comments | More in homepage, Politics Northwest | Topics: medical marijuana, president obama

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