California Cops to DEA: Help Us Undermine State Law


Perusing material submitted by the DEA in response to a query from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, marijuana reform activist Dale Gieringer catches the the California Police Chiefs Association actively subverting state law. The documents (PDF) received by Conyers, who is looking into the DEA's raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, include an October 2006 letter (page 18) in which Steve Krull, the association's president, urges DEA Administrator Karen Tandy to "become more actively involved in working with local law enforcement to close these [medical marijuana] distribution centers, seize their profits and all marijuana which might be located and to take these cases into the federal judicial system." Krull suggests that "a concentrated effort sustained over a period of time would send a strong message to local and county government that 'medical marijuana' is not allowed and that those who profit from the sales and distribution of marijuana under the guise of 'medicine' will face the consequences."

Under California law, of course, marijuana is allowed for qualifying patients and is considered a medicine. That's why Krull complains to Tandy about the "dangers and frustrations that law enforcement has experienced in California with trying to enforce marijuana laws." He reports, with apparent amazement, that "some situations have reached the point where state judicial officers (local judges) are ordering our members to return marijuana which has been lawfully seized"—i.e., instructing police to give back the medicine that patients are permitted to have under state law. Evidently Krull and many of his colleagues find obeying state law to be an intolerable nuisance, one they want the feds to help them avoid. The DEA has been happy to oblige, conducting 130 enforcement actions and making 365 arrests related to medical marijuana from 2004 through July 2008. Gieringer, coordinator of California NORML, notes that a state appeals court ruled last year that "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws." Both the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have declined to hear an appeal of that decision.

Here is the appeals court's ruling (PDF), which said (much to Krull's consternation, no doubt) that police who seize a patient's medical marijuana have to return it. Previous reason coverage of that case here and here.