Today, a coalition of organizations supportive of medical marijuana patients and providers -- including MPP, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), NORML, California NORML, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) -- is calling on President Obama to withdraw his nomination of Michele Leonhart to serve as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The following is a from press release just sent out on behalf of the coalition:
Ms. Leonhart, who is currently the DEA’s acting-administrator, has not demonstrated that she is capable of leading the agency in a thoughtful manner at a time when 14 states have enacted medical marijuana laws and science is increasingly confirming the therapeutic benefits of the substance.
Under Leonhart's leadership, the DEA has staged medical marijuana raids in apparent disregard of Attorney General Eric Holder's directive to respect state medical marijuana laws. Most recently, DEA agents flouted a pioneering Mendocino County (CA) ordinance to regulate medical marijuana cultivation by raiding the very first grower to register with the sheriff. Joy Greenfield, 69, had paid more than $1,000 for a permit to cultivate 99 plants in a collective garden that had been inspected and approved by the local sheriff.
Informed that Ms. Greenfield had the support of the sheriff, the DEA agent in charge responded by saying, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.” The DEA's conduct is inconsistent with an October 2009 Department of Justice memo directing officials not to arrest individuals “whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
Ms. Leonhart has also demonstrated that she is unable to be objective in carrying out the duties of the administrator as it relates to medical marijuana research. In January 2009, she refused to issue a license to the University of Massachusetts to cultivate marijuana for FDA-approved research, despite a DEA administrative law judge’s ruling that it would be “in the public interest” to issue the license. This single act has blocked privately funded medical marijuana research in this country. The next DEA administrator will likely influence the outcome of a marijuana-rescheduling petition currently before the agency. It is critical that an administrator with an open mind toward science and research is at the helm.
“With Leonhart’s nomination pending, one would expect her to be more — not less — respectful of the Department of Justice and the rights of individuals in medical marijuana states,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations at the Marijuana Policy Project. “Such behavior is an ominous sign for the future of the DEA under her leadership. Moreover, she has continually demonstrated her desire to block privately funded medical marijuana research in this country. The Obama administration has reversed many Bush administration policies over the past 18 months. It is time to transform the culture at the DEA by either withdrawing Leonhart’s nomination or directing her to change her attitude toward medical marijuana.”
After word spread of DEA raids on medical marijuana collectives in San Diego and Mendocino County last week, many are left wondering if federal agents deliberately violated the Obama administration’s instructions to not interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
Under the Department of Justice policy announced in an October memo, federal agents are no longer supposed to target or prosecute medical marijuana patients or providers who operate in “clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law.”
Yet, according to local accounts, the sites raided last week were legal under state law. From the Press Democrat:
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman confirmed Friday that the [raided] property owner had the proper paperwork and the marijuana was legal in the eyes of the county.
“This was a federal operation and had nothing to do with local law enforcement,” he said. “The federal government made a decision to go ahead and eradicate it.”
Steve Elliott has more in Alternet:
A multi-agency federal task force descended on the property of Joy Greenfield, the first Mendo patient to pay the $1,050 application fee under the ordinance, which allows collectives to grow up to 99 plants provided they comply with certain regulations.
Greenfield had applied in the name of her collective, “Light The Way,” which opened in San Diego earlier this year. Her property had passed a preliminary inspection by the Mendo sheriff’s deputies shortly before the raid, and she had bought the sheriff’s “zip-ties” intended to designate her cannabis plants as legal.
In the days before the raid, Greenfield had seen a helicopter hovering over her property; she inquired with the sheriff, who told her the copter belonged to the DEA and wasn’t under his control.
The agents invaded her property with guns drawn, tore out the collective’s 99 plants and took Greenfield’s computer and cash.
Joy was not at home during the raid, but spoke on the phone to the DEA agent in charge. When she told [him] she was a legal grower under the sheriff’s program, the agent replied, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.”
The DEA has not yet released any statement explaining their actions, which all reports indicate violated their DOJ-issued guidelines.
With the number of state medical marijuana laws at 14 and growing, there is an urgent need for the federal government to ensure that its policy on state medical marijuana laws is made “clear and unambiguous” to its enforcers as well. The DOJ guidelines issued in October should have done just that, but apparently the DEA in California didn’t get the memo.