Last March, when the Drug Enforcement Administration seized less than half an ounce of cannabis that Robin Prosser, a Missoula lupus patient and medical marijuana activist, had been sent by her caregiver, the special agent in charge of the DEA's Rocky Mountain Field Division said it was "protecting people from their own state laws." Last week, unable to find a reliable supply of the only drug that relieved her pain without causing unacceptable side effects, Prosser killed herself. Although the use of medical marijuana is legal in Montana, friends say suppliers were spooked by the DEA. Writing in the Helena Independent Record, activist Tom Daubert calls Prosser's death "a direct result of DEA actions."

About a month ago I debated drug policy on the Dallas PBS station with a former head of the local DEA office, who insisted that marijuana was not a big priority for the agency. When I pointed out that his former employer was continuing to raid medical marijuana growers and dispensaries in California and other states, he said it couldn't very well sit back and allow that sort of thing. To which my response was: Why not? It is hard to understand, even from the DEA's point of view, how half an ounce of pot can be such a threat that it's worth risking an outcome like this one.