In Costa Mesa, CA on Sunday, July 21, the California Democratic party passed two new resolutions at its executive board meeting. The first of the two dealt with President Obama’s federal raids on marijuana dispensaries.
The resolution reads, “THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the California Democratic Party requests: President Obama to allow the newly enacted marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington to go into effect with no federal interference, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the California Democratic Party asks President Obama to end the Department of Justice interference and raids by federal agencies in states with medical marijuana laws, and a comprehensive study be immediately undertaken to produce recommendations for reform of our nation’s marijuana prohibition.”
This position in the California Democratic platform will have drastic implications for the 2016 candidate chosen by the Democrats. California has historically been a cornerstone of Democrat success. Given President Obama’s earlier comments about racial disparity in arrests like drug offenses, this is an opportunity for Obama to step forward and stop some of those unfair arrests by keeping his campaign promise not to interfere with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
Earlier today, the Obama administration released its annual National Drug Control Strategy, detailing the methods and budgets planned to combat drug use for fiscal year 2013. The report stresses that more resources need to be spent on addiction treatment and prevention, and that an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” is unworkable. The report shows, however, that budget allocations for traditional law enforcement methods could increase by hundreds of millions of dollars, including domestic military operations. Government data from previous years have shown no connection between drug-arrest rates and drug-use rates.
While significant portions of the budget are dedicated to harm reduction and abuse prevention programs, many of the “drug war” methods that have proven ineffective over the last 40 years — particularly those used to enforce marijuana prohibition — will likely see funding increases this year. Domestic law enforcement is slated to receive $9.4 billion, a $61.4 million increase from last year. The Department of Defense Domestic Counterdrug support program will get nearly $150 million this year. Over $4.5 billion will be spent on federal incarceration of drug users and distributors. In addition, the Obama administration has requested the revival of the Youth Drug Prevention Media Program with a $20 million budget. Studies have shown that this program had the opposite of the intended effect on teens, and Congress allocated no money for the program last year.
"This budget is appalling. The drug czar is trying to resurrect those stupid TV ads, like the one where a teenager gets his fist stuck in his mouth," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "The budget intentionally undercounts the federal government's expenditures on incarcerating drug offenders, who comprise more than half of the federal prison population. And the budget dangerously proposes a massive escalation in using the military to fight drugs domestically. Congress should just ignore this budget and start from scratch. Specifically, Congress should not provide the Obama administration with any money to go after nonviolent marijuana users, growers, or distributors."
The drug czar’s strategy would keep control of the marijuana trade in the hands of drug cartels and illegal operators, endangering communities, and creating massive death tolls throughout Latin America. In the past year, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, current and former Latin American leaders whose countries are being ravaged by drug cartels, and tens of millions of Americans have called for a more rational approach to marijuana policy. The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that making marijuana legal is not an option.
Check back for further analysis in the coming days.
Six National Drug Policy Organizations Call on President Obama to End Unnecessary Assault on Medical Marijuana Providers
In the wake of recent attacks on medical marijuana providers and patients by multiple branches of the federal government, including Monday's raids on Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA, a coalition of six national drug policy reform organizations is appealing to President Obama and his administration to follow its own previously stated policies respecting state medical marijuana laws. In the letter, posted in full below, the organizations call on the Obama administration to bring an end to the federal government’s ongoing campaign to undermine state efforts to regulate safe and legal access to medical marijuana for those patients who rely on it.
The Obama Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy Report 2012, reportedly being released in the coming days, is expected to cling to failed and outdated marijuana policies which further cement the control of the marijuana trade in the hands of drug cartels and illegal operators, endangering both patients in medical marijuana states and citizens everywhere. The members of this coalition stand together with members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, current and former Latin American leaders whose countries are being ravaged by drug cartels, state officials from five medical marijuana states, and tens of millions of Americans in their call for a more rational approach to marijuana policy.
THE LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA:
April 4, 2012
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington D.C. 20500
Via Fax: 2024562461
Dear Mr. President:
Our coalition represents the views of tens of millions of Americans who believe the war on medical marijuana patients and providers you are fighting is misguided and counterproductive. As your administration prepares to release its annual National Drug Control Strategy, we want to speak with one voice and convey our deep sense of anger and disappointment in your lack of leadership on this issue.
Voters and elected officials in sixteen states and the District of Columbia have determined that the medical use of marijuana should be legal. In many of these states, the laws also include means for providing medical marijuana patients safe access to this medicine. These laws allowing for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana actually shift control of marijuana sales from the criminal underground to state-licensed, taxed, and regulated producers and distributors.
Instead of celebrating – or even tolerating – this state experimentation, which has benefited patients and taken profits away from drug cartels, you have turned your back as career law enforcement officials have run roughshod over some of the most professional and well-regulated medical marijuana providers. We simply cannot understand why you have reneged on your administration’s earlier policy of respecting state medical marijuana laws.
Our frustration and confusion over your administration’s uncalled-for attacks on state-authorized medical marijuana providers was best summed up by John McCowen, the chair of the Mendocino County (CA) board of supervisors, who said, “It's almost as if there was a conscious effort to drive [medical marijuana cultivation and distribution] back underground. My opinion is that's going to further endanger public safety and the environment – the federal government doesn't seem to care about that.”
The National Drug Control Strategy you are about to release will no doubt call for a continuation of policies that have as a primary goal the ongoing and permanent control of the marijuana trade by drug cartels and organized crime. We cannot and do not endorse the continued embrace of this utterly failed policy. We stand instead with Latin American leaders, members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the vast majority of people who voted you into office in recognizing that it is time for a new approach on marijuana policy.
With approximately 50,000 people dead in Mexico over the past five years as the result of drug war-related violence, we hope that you will immediately reconsider your drug control strategy and will work with, not against, states and organizations that are attempting to shift control of marijuana cultivation and sales, at least as it applies to medical marijuana, to a controlled and regulated market.
Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
cc: Eric Holder, Attorney General, Department of Justice
James Cole, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice
Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
No family should have to deal with the consequences of the events that occurred in Ogden, Utah on January 3, 2012. So it is with great respect to the families of both Jared Francom and Matthew David Stewart, who no doubt are both dealing with incredible grief of contrasting nature, that I’m offering up these comments.
Whenever a member of law enforcement is killed in the line of duty, like Officer Jared Francom recently was, it’s a tragedy. When the “target” of the military tactical style operation that led to the shootout leaving the officer dead appears to have been a personal marijuana grow, it’s also infuriating.
At 8:40 p.m. on Wednesday, January 3, 2012, members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force in Ogden, Utah conducted a “knock and enter” warrant on the home of 37 year-old army veteran Matthew David Stewart. According to reports, they knocked and no one answered. When they forcefully entered his home in paramilitary style gear, with guns drawn, they encountered gunfire. When it was all said and done, one member of the task force was fatally injured, five members were wounded, Stewart was injured and faces likely charges of aggravated murder (which carries the death penalty) and multiple counts of attempted aggravated murder.
According to DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Smith, the victims and other agents involved in this operation are heroes, and they were “protecting the public.” I tend to agree with Agent Smith, members of the task force are heroes, but in this instance, they certainly were not protecting the public.
The only public reports about why Stewart was raided indicate that Stewart had a personal, indoor marijuana grow for medical reasons. It’s been reported that Stewart suffers from PTSD and grew a small amount of marijuana to self-medicate. In addition, it has been speculated that the reason why Stewart failed to answer the knock is because he was asleep at the time. He worked the midnight shift and would typically be asleep at the time the raid was conducted.
So, it seems an army veteran who suffers from PTSD was suddenly awoken to armor-clad armed men in his home and he allegedly opened fire. The army vet now likely faces the death penalty. One officer is dead. Five wounded. Countless lives have been ruined.
I’d like Agent Smith to explain to Stewart exactly why he was a threat to the public. There has been no allegation that Steward sold marijuana, or gave it away to kids, or that he was a danger to anyone before the paramilitary-style raid on his house. In fact, his neighbors were shocked to learn that there was any drug activity in the area, dispelling the notion that Stewart was an immediate threat to anyone. Without making a fuss and without causing problems in his neighborhood, Stewart simply grew marijuana for personal medical reasons.
I’d also like Agent Smith to explain to Officer Francom’s family why Stewart’s personal medical grow warranted the over-the-top means of enforcement that has been linked to so many needless deaths and injuries.
Finally, I’d like Agent Smith to explain to everyone why — as he stated to Fox 13 News — this situation isn’t a legalization issue? Clearly, the officers involved were just doing their job. They were enforcing enacted laws that their superiors wanted enforced. However, if marijuana were legal, this and numerous other prohibition-related deaths, including the death of another Utah man at the hands of this very same task force, would never have happened.
So long as marijuana remains a law enforcement issue as opposed to a public health issue, we’ll keep seeing tragic stories like these. Officers and civilians shot, and often times killed, over a naturally occurring plant that is safer than alcohol. It’s sad and it’s sickening, and it’s about time that we finally rethink our nation’s devastating marijuana prohibition.
Once again, federal law enforcement is cracking down on medical marijuana businesses. On Thursday, just as Gov. Chris Gregoire was considering a veto of a bill that would establish the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington, federal agents raided several Spokane dispensaries.
Technically, these actions were in step with the Ogden memo, since Washington’s medical marijuana law does not explicitly allow and regulate dispensaries. Earlier this month, however, U.S. Attorneys warned Gov. Gregoire that they could still prosecute any medical marijuana businesses, even if they were allowed under the proposed bill. This prompted the governor to threaten a veto of the bill.
As if to illustrate their point, the DEA decided to start raids at a critical legislative juncture, which can only serve to compound the fears of nervous lawmakers and the governor.
Legislators should not allow this intimidation to affect their judgment. Several states have established licensed medical marijuana industries without seeing the type of aggression we are witnessing here. The key point to remember is that there is still no indication that the feds will go after medical marijuana businesses in states that have already established their legality. This means we need to pass laws protecting safe access as soon as possible!
If you are one of the many people that showed your friends, co-workers, and family the video of Columbia, Mo. SWAT officers raiding the home of Jonathan Whitworth and shooting his dogs immediately after kicking in the door, then you helped make a real difference for the people of Columbia and elsewhere.
According to Ken Burton, police chief of Columbia, the public outcry that followed the release and viral spread of this disturbing video forced his department to make major changes to the way in which it uses its SWAT teams. The direct result of this has been that “dynamic entry” of the sort that led to the tragic events in the video has not been used for drug enforcement once in 2011!
This is a wonderful example of how information-sharing and public pressure can have a direct impact on the unjust and violent policies of the war on drugs. We have the power to change things for the better, and we have to use it. Simply sharing videos is not enough, however. We need to consistently engage anyone and everyone on the issues arising from the prohibition of marijuana, and keep doing so until the truth is impossible to ignore. This is a good start!
I’m starting to sound like a broken record. Yesterday, the DEA, assisted by local law enforcement, raided several Michigan medical marijuana businesses and arrested the owners. No information has been released since the investigation is ongoing.
This sounds awfully familiar. Last month, federal authorities cracked down on medical marijuana facilities in Montana and California. According to all available information, those raided were in compliance with state law and were legitimate businesses.
It seems that the DEA is going to continue taking an active role in investigating and prosecuting medical marijuana patients and caregivers, regardless of Justice Department direction to the contrary. While they are legally allowed to enforce federal law in states where medical marijuana is permitted, the current policy directs them to only do so if state law is being broken.
I’m left wondering why the DEA is involved if the people and organizations being targeted are operating within state law. If these “criminals” are not following state law, why is it necessary to call in the feds? One would think local law enforcement is perfectly capable of enforcing their own state’s laws and wouldn’t want anyone nosing in on their jurisdiction. Could it be that some law enforcement and certain politicians see this as a way to impose extreme penalties on a group of people with whom they have personal and ideological problems?
Or is the DEA simply taking it upon themselves to interpret state law, storming in when someone is operating within a legal gray area?
Either way, the DEA has no business going after medical marijuana businesses in the states. This is a state issue that is best dealt with through debate and regulation, not with assault weapons and battering rams.
This week has seen a sudden explosion in DEA raids of medical marijuana businesses, leaving patients, caregivers, and activists reeling.
On Monday, 26 medical marijuana businesses throughout Montana were raided by task forces comprised of federal and local law enforcement. As usual, some arrests were made and anything of value seized as evidence under sealed warrants. Interestingly, these raids began within minutes of a vote that stalled the bill to repeal Montana’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. Patients and employees of medical marijuana businesses have been mobilizing with the help of Americans for Safe Access to respond to these strong-arm tactics.
This travesty was repeated Tuesday when the DEA and local law enforcement raided two West Hollywood dispensaries. This occurred shortly after a measure to tax medical marijuana businesses in Los Angeles passed, adding even more legitimacy to the industry there. (A video about the raids is at the bottom of this post, courtesy of ReasonTV.)
It should be noted that the Justice Department “Ogden Memo” instructs federal law enforcement not to spend resources going after medical marijuana businesses as long as they are following state law. Of course, the Justice Department thinks all these businesses were violating state law, but is that for them to decide, or the states?
From all accounts, the California dispensaries that were raided were model businesses. Unfortunately, Montana’s medical marijuana law is vague when it comes to dispensaries, but there are several bills currently being considered by the state legislature that would establish their legality and a system of tight controls. For the DEA to go in now like angry thugs, when the exact extent of the law is in a state of flux, is unacceptable.
The manner in which these raids are taking place is equally unacceptable. These businesses are trying to follow every law and pay their taxes like any other legitimate business. Yet, when their compliance is in question, the federal government attacks them with threats and violence, taking money and destroying property. Where else does this happen? If an automobile manufacturer accidentally miscalculates its taxes or unintentionally steps outside of an unclear law, charges are filed and the issue is dealt with in court peacefully. Federal agents don’t kick down the factory doors, destroy all the cars on the lot, or sell off the factory equipment. They don’t handcuff the autoworkers and force them to lie on the ground with guns in their faces.
This aggression toward medical marijuana businesses must stop.
Please click here to ask President Obama to stand by his promises and end the raids.
After serving two years as interim DEA administrator, where she oversaw continued raids on medical marijuana providers and personally rejected an application for FDA-level research on marijuana, Michele Leonhart is scheduled for a confirmation hearing tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
President Bush first nominated Leonhart for this position in 2007. The Obama administration re-nominated her in February, even though she has overseen actions that contradict Obama administration directives and made comments that clearly counter reality. The most egregious:
- Despite last year’s Justice Department directive to respect state medical marijuana laws, the DEA under Leonhart’s leadership has repeatedly raided medical marijuana patients and providers who operate under state law. In July, for example, the DEA blatantly ignored a Mendocino County (CA) ordinance to regulate medical marijuana cultivation by raiding the very first grower to register with the sheriff. Joy Greenfield, 68, 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.”
- In January 2009, Leonhart rejected an application from University of Massachusetts professor Lyle Craker to conduct FDA-level research on marijuana in the hopes of getting it rescheduled. In doing so, she opposed recommendations from both a DEA administrative law judge and the American Medical Association.
- Last year Leonhart heralded increased drug violence in Mexico – which has claimed about 30,000 lives in four years – as a sign of success: "Our view is that the violence we have been seeing is a signpost of the success our very courageous Mexican counterparts are having,” she said. “The cartels are acting out like caged animals, because they are caged animals.”
Sources say Leonhart’s confirmation is virtually guaranteed, so our best hope is to make sure senators on the Judiciary Committee ask her tough questions. If your senator sits on the Judiciary Committee, you can urge them to press Leonhart on her plans for the future by clicking here.
But there has been one noticeable difference from how the raids were carried out under the Bush administration: officials are no longer publicizing them. Mike Riggs has the story in the Daily Caller:
[T]he DOJ has demonstrated one marked change now that it’s under Democratic control: The department has stopped publicizing medical marijuana raids, both by requesting that more cases be sealed under court order and by refusing to distribute press releases.
Late last week, DEA and FBI agents raided five medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada. In July, DEA agents raided the home of 65-year-old Mendocino County, California, grower Joy Greenfield and confiscated plants, money, and her computer. Also in July, DEA agents raided the home of a couple in Michigan who were licensed by the state to use marijuana, as well as three medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. In January and February of this year, the DEA raided two medical marijuana research labs in Colorado.
In all of the above cases, the DEA and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices issued no press releases and held no press conferences. The websites for DEA and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices in Detroit, Denver, Northern California, and Los Angeles (which also handles cases in Nevada) make no mention of the above dispensary raids, but do feature news releases for raids, arrests, and investigations involving harder drugs, as well marijuana trafficking, which is illegal in all states.
[…] But even if there hasn’t been any official change, Garrison Courtney, the head of communications for the DEA from 2005-2009, confirmed that his office regularly publicized dispensary busts. “When I was chief of public affairs, if it was a good case and a good bust, we put it out. There were some of the medical marijuana shops that had a ton of cash, a ton of weed, or a ton of guns, and we put it out. There wasn’t any policy against that.”
And yet, in the case of the Michigan couple, guns were found, but no press release was ever issued by the DEA or the U.S. Attorney.
Courtney added that “if you look at the DEA website, there are a lot of [Bush-era] news releases from San Francisco and Los Angeles. We were pretty aggressive in talking about the different dispensaries and the fact that they were operating in violation of federal law.”
Is this a case of officials trying to cover up their broken promises?