Shocking: Latest Victim of The War on Weed is a Former Marine Living with AIDS

 Michael Welch is a 45-year-old former Marine and gay man living with AIDS. Like many AIDS patients, he uses marijuana to qualm the side effects of antiretrovirals. Welch also provides a service to other patients who benefit from medical marijuana. He operates Sanctuary, a medical marijuana collective in Tenderloin, San Francisco. According to the San Francisco Weekly, at just 220 square feet, it may be the city's smallest dispensary and, like many others, is facing closure. But shutting it down may leave Welch, who is suffering from expensive health problems, homeless. 

From SF Weekly:

It was the first storefront medical marijuana collective to receive an operating permit from the city of San Francisco -- and on Friday, Sanctuary became the fourth dispensary to receive an ultimatum to shut down or face consequences from United States Attorney for Northern California Melinda Haag, whose offices on Golden Gate Avenue are a few blocks away.

Haag's letter to Sanctuary pointed to the Tenderloin Children's Playground located just a few blocks away. 

According to SF Weekly, shutting down Sanctuary would leave Tenderloin without a medical marijuana collective. Sadly, Tenderloin has one of the highest concentrations of HIV/AIDS patients in the city. Once it shuts down, local AIDS patients who benefit from medical marijuana must either travel to another collective, stop using marijuana, or purchase the medicine illegally.  Regardless, once the collective closes its doors, street dealers will have a reason to return. They, too, will be just a few bucks away from the Children's Playground. 

"We pay our taxes. The cartel doesn't pay taxes," Welch told SF Weekly. "And what is it worth?"

According to SF Weekly:

This issue also comes at a very bad time for Welch, who last year suffered a blood clot in his aorta, and will undergo surgery Friday to repair an intestinal issue. "I have medical bills, and $600 in my bank account," he said Tuesday evening at the dispensary. "I can either stay here and become homeless, or go somewhere else and die."

As the story unfolds, a framed letter of support form Nancy Pelosi hangs ironically on Sanctuary's wall. SF Weekly asked Welch whether the feds may be "given pause" at the idea of forcing a sick Marine to become homeless.

"They don't care -- they have no compassion for anyone," he said and he may be right. A federal judge in California ruled Monday that  federal law declaring marijuana "has no currently accepted medical value" trumps state law, and dispensaries may not be protected by California's Compassionate Care Act. 

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at November 30, 2011, 10:39am