Tag Archives: DEA

DEA Ignores Policy, Raids San Francisco Dispensary

 (Cross posted at Medical Cannabis: Voices from the Frontlines, by my co-worker at Americans for Safe Access, George Pappas.)

We never expected that the DEA would defy the public statements of both the U.S. President and the Attorney General in such an arrogant and brazen way.

And yet on Wednesday, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided a legal, permitted San Francisco medical cannabis dispensing collective against the will of the President and the Department of Justice… and we need you to respond RIGHT NOW!

In early February national media attention exploded around statements from a White House spokesperson and from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, telling the press that DEA raids would no longer continue, and that an end to such raids, according to Holder, was “now U.S. policy.”

And DEA’s response?

They thumbed their noses at the President and immediately raided a legal dispensing collective and, according to the San Francisco Police, did not even inform local cops! DEA claimed that the permit-holding dispensary was “violating state law,” but went on to say that evidence was “under seal” and could not be shared with the public.

The DEA is out of line and out of control, and this raid is nothing if not vindictive. Even if there was a violation of state law:

1. Why where there no arrests?
2. Why were local cops not involved?
3. Why are United States Federal Agents interpreting and enforcing California state law without consulting California officials?
4. Why was the collective not given due process through the proper authorities, but rather ransacked with a “smash and grab” raid?

DEA has twisted the words of the U.S. Attorney General, and thought that by saying publicly “they violated state law” that they could continue raiding whenever they want. Well that doesn’t fly. We DEMAND that the DEA stop immediately, and that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reprimand DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart for her blatant insubordination and violation of the “new American policy.”

Now it’s up to you, and all it takes is two phone calls, one to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and the other straight to the DEA.

Please call the U.S. Attorney General at (202) 353-1555 and say:

Hi, my name is _____________. First I want to thank you for your numerous public statements verifying the end of DEA raids on legal medical marijuana dispensaries in California. But on Wednesday the DEA went against your word and the word of the President of the United States by raiding a permitted dispensary in San Francisco. We respectfully demand that you issue a statement condemning and officially ending these raids until the Obama Administration has had a chance to review the new policy.

When you’re done, call the DEA at (202) 307-8000, ask for Administrator Michele Leonhart, and say:

Hi, my name is ___________. The U.S. Attorney General and the President of the United States have both made high-profile public statements, saying DEA raids on legal medical marijuana dispensaries is no longer U.S. policy. Yet your DEA raided a legal, permit-holding San Francisco dispensary yesterday, in conflict with these statements. This disgraceful and anti-democratic. Why is your agency not listening to the policy statements of our elected leaders and your boss? Is this how you’ll run DEA if you are appointed in the Obama Administration? We demand that you STOP it immediately!

Please forward this message to all your friends and family so that we can generate a response big enough to get officials to act!

Clarification On The End To Medical Marijuana Raids

When the Administration announced an end to medical marijuana raids by the DEA, they abruptly took back the statement a few hours later.  There was a bit of confusion about the new policy.  Eric Holder put an end to that.

Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a change on medical marijuana policy Wednesday, saying federal agents will target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state law.

That would be a departure from the policy of the Bush administration, which targeted medical marijuana dispensaries in California even if they complied with that state’s law.

“The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law,” Holder said in a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Justice Department.

Good.  There is little justification to waste Justice Department resources harassing Californians and Americans in 12 other states engaging in perfectly legal activity.  Holder must follow the law but he also has discretion in setting priorities, and it’s good to see him recognize that arresting local businessmen and their patients makes no sense.  There remain questions about outstanding medical marijuana federal court cases with over two dozen dispensaries, and hopefully the solution will be to drop the charges.

In a related story, Maxine Waters wants to end mandatory minimum sentencing for federal drug offenses, and the bill has 15 co-sponsors.  The Bureau of Prisons budget has increased 25-fold since mandatory minimums were introduced.  Small drug cases belong in state courts, where offenders could be given treatment instead of jail.  Furthermore, these kind of drug cases disproportionately impact minority communities.

H.R. 1466, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009, seeks to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and to give courts the ability to determine sentences based on all the facts, not just drug weight. It would also refocus federal resources on major drug traffickers instead of low-level offenders. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.

Sen. Boxer, your office phone is ringing.

DEA Can’t Do Its Own Job – Calls in Blackwater to Raid Medical Marijuana Providers

(I work for Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group.)

Yesterday, the DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Culver City, spending hours on site detaining employees and ultimately leaving the facility in disarray. This is unfortunately not an unusal story. Since 2005, the DEA has raided dozens of state-sanctioned dispensaries in California.

But this time was different. We're used to the DEA calling in help from various federal agencies and local law enforcement. But I guess none of their usual buddies were available yesterday because from the picture below, which appeared in the LA Times today, it looks like they had to resort to calling in Blackwater:

 Blackwater DEA Medical Marijuana Raid

The DEA often likes to say that medical marijuana is not their top priority (though at the height of the raids last year, they were raiding an average of one dispensary per week). They like to argue that medical marijuana raids do not take resources away from other drug interdiction. Yet this photo makes me wonder – if they have sufficient resources to shut down meth labs and to bust medical marijuana providers, why do they need the help of Blackwater, a private agency?

Yet another reason we need Congress to hold oversight hearings on DEA medical marijuana activities. Good to know that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers is concerned about this issue and has already begun to question the DEA on its actions.

CA committee calls for an end to DEA raids, but prosecutions continue

(Crossposted from Medical Cannabis: Voices from the Frontlines, the blog of Americans for Safe Access. I work for Americans for Safe Acces.)

Yesterday was a historic day for the medical marijuana movement. SJR 20, a resolution that calls for an end to DEA attacks on California’s medical cannabis patients and providers, cleared the California Senate Health Committee.

Unsurprisingly, the votes came down on party lines. One Republican Senator stated that there is a pill that patients could use instead of smoking marijuana. Committee Chairwoman Sheila Kuehl responded that a pill did exist (Marinol), but that it is too strong for many patients. It’s good to know that many of our state representatives are well educated on this issue and willing to stand up for patients and providers.

Californians have good reason to rejoice about this win. The resolution, authored by Senator Carole Migden, not only calls on the DEA to leave patients and providers alone, but further calls on the President and Congress to enact federal legislation to end the raids. If passed, this will be the first time in U.S. history that a state legislature has denounced the DEA’s interference in state laws and tactics used against medical cannabis patients and providers.

Unfortunately, even as our legislators consider this resolution, the raids and prosecutions continue. Just hours before the SJR 20 hearing occurred, Michael Martin plead guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to manufacture a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marijuana. Martin now faces up to 5 years imprisonment, a $250K fine, and several years of supervised release.

Michael Martin & Family

Michael Martin and his family

Martin was arrested and charged in conjunction with the September 26, 2007 DEA raids of the Tainted, Inc. facilities that produced clearly labeled baked goods and other marijuana edibles for medical cannabis patients and collectives all over California. The products made by Tainted were available only through medical cannabis dispensaries and carried prominent warning labels.

Despite these precautions, the DEA attempted to paint Martin and Tainted as criminals who were pedaling marijuana-laced candy to children. Martin feels he has done nothing wrong, and the medical cannabis community showed up in force yesterday to support this assertion at his hearing yesterday. Fifty supporters packed the court room, sending a clear message to the judge.

The words that Martin wrote just before turning himself in will hopefully be heard by the California Senate and Assembly, as they consider passing SJR 20 to send a clear message to the federal government:

I encourage community leaders, government officials, patriotic citizens, and anyone who has the common sense to realize the failed policies of this war on medical cannabis, to rise up and be heard. Let your elected officials know that we demand a stop to these senseless acts of violence and the needless wasting of resources in states where citizens support the use of medical cannabis. The choice to use medical cannabis is a decision that should be made by a patient and a doctor… It is a fundamental right of the sick and dying to find relief for their pain and suffering through sound research and advice from their personal physician. The issue here is not a matter of whether a law has been broken. The issue is whether those laws are just and moral.

While a future change in law may not end the persecution Martin and his family are experiencing, it would prevent more tragedies like this from occurring.

Speak Out Against DEA Attacks on Oakland Medical Marijuana Producer

(Cross posted at Living in the O.)

Wednesday was a difficult day for the medical marijuana movement. In the morning, the DEA raided the longest standing medical cannabis dispensary in Sacramento. I wrote about that raid on the blog of the organization I work for, Americans for Safe Access, so I won’t dwell on it here.

Before noon though, I’d gotten word of another raid. The DEA was apparently raiding a facility operated by Tainted, Inc., a medical cannabis edible producer. I asked a coworker of mine to drive down to the site to confirm. As he was on his way, I got another call telling me that the DEA was raiding three Tainted facilities.

My coworker soon called me to confirm that it was a DEA raid (sometimes raids are misreported and we like to confirm by looking for the very noticeable DEA jackets). I told him about the other raids and asked him to talk to the agents to find out if anybody at any of the locations had been detained or arrested. After nudging the agents for a while, they finally told him that there were a dozen people being detained, but the DEA wouldn’t reveal whether anybody had or would be arrested. They simply told us to keep calling the Oakland courthouse to check if any arraignments were scheduled for the following day.

Let me back up a bit. You might have read the Chronicle’s or the Tribune’s articles about these raids, but surprise, surprise, neither of those stories give the full picture of what happened and what this means. The Trib’s headline refers to “drug-laced candies” while the Chron calles Tainted a “pot candy firm.” Both stories quote DEA agents extensively. Neither quotes a medical cannabis patient or advocate, despite the fact that ASA sent out a press release explaining the medical side of the story.

I know many of the people who were involved in Tainted quite well. They were doing this for all the right reasons and gave back to the community whenever they could. They spearheaded accurate labeling of medical marijuana edibles. All of their edibles are clearly marked with ingredient lists and warnings stating they are for medical use only. There’s also a clear warning on the back of their edibles -“Keep out of reach of children”:

Tainted Edible Packaging

Tainted Edible Packaging

Tens of thousands of Californians who use medical marijuana depend on these edibles. They either cannot or do not want to smoke for health reasons or edibles are more effective. While the healing effects of inhaled cannabis only last for a short time, the effects of ingested cannabis can last for several hours. Tainted was one of the most respected edible producers, and they supplied medical cannabis patients statewide.

Back to last Wednesday… throughout the day, we tried to gather more facts, but there was little more to find out. Tainted’s attorney didn’t even find out about the 10:00 a.m., Thursday arraignment of three alleged managers until the arraignment had already begun. Luckily, all three of them were released pending trial. They all face serious prison sentences if they are convicted.

Throughout the end of the week, I was in contact with Michael Martin, the owner of Tainted. The press stories have painted him as a fugitive, but the truth is that he just happened to be out of town when the raids occurred. He intends to turn himself in next week and fight the charges against him.

What struck me was Martin’s concern with his employees. He kept calling me to see if I had heard more about any arrests. He had his attorney attempt to intervene in the arraignments. He didn’t want to publicize anything until he knew that everyone was safe. He is certainly not what most people think of when they picture a drug manufacturer or drug dealer. And he doesn’t see himself that way either.

Needless to say, the medical cannabis community is pretty pissed off right now. These attacks on safe access need to end. In August, I told the inspiring story of a huge activist response to DEA raids in Los Angeles and asked, how far would Oakland go for medical marijuana? Now it’s time to find out. On Thursday, ASA is hosting a press conference and rally at the Oakland federal building to speak out against the DEA raids in Oakland.

I encourage everyone reading this post to join me on Thursday and to spread the word. We can only end these raids if we fight back.

Here are the details:

What: Press Conference Speaking Out Against Raids in Oakland
When: Thursday, October 4th at 9:00am
Where: Oakland Federal Building at 1301 Clay St.
What to Wear: Business Professional Attire

For more information, contact [email protected]

And if you’re not in the Bay Area, take a minute to send a message to Governor Schwarzenegger, calling on him to end the DEA raids on medical marijuana patients and providers.