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Pro-marijuana advocates protest attorney general's Berkeley visit

It's been about 17 years since California voters passed Proposition 215 and legalized medical marijuana. Other states have since loosened up their marijuana laws, but the federal justice system still regards marijuana as illegal.

In fact, even after Attorney General Eric Holder clearly stated that the Justice Department would not target medical marijuana dispensaries in California, the department nonetheless forced hundreds of dispensaries throughout the state to close their doors.

With these issues in mind, dozens of protesters recently showed up on the U.C. Berkeley campus to greet the attorney general. The welcome was hardly welcoming, however.

Of Attorney General Holder, the California chapter president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws had this to say: "He can't come to Berkeley and not be reminded of his department's bad faith with respect to medical marijuana."

Adding insult to injury, federal prosecutors set out to close the Berkeley Patients Group only days prior to Holder's visit. The dispensary is well respected and one of the longest-standing in the Bay Area.

Holder came to Berkeley to speak to the new law school graduates, and while he addressed the crowd, an airplane flew overhead and pulled a banner with a message for the A.G.: "Holder: End Rx Cannabis War #Peace4Patients." The appeal to "Fight Crime, Not Cannabis" was emblazoned on signs that protesters waved as Holder's limousine moved toward Berkeley's Greek Theater.

All of these concerns underscore the differences between state and federal laws, as well as the need for a proper legal defense in a federal drug case. Any Bay Area resident who is accused of a federal drug crime should work with an attorney with knowledge of legal defense strategies that are appropriate for federal court.

The stakes are high in these cases, and it is a mistake to assume that federal prosecutors will take a lenient approach to drug charges.

Source: Huffington Post, "Eric Holder Marijuana Protest In Berkeley: Attorney General Greeted By Unfriendly Crowd," Carly Schwartz, May 13, 2013

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