Drug War

Who Is to Blame for the DEA's Medical Marijuana Raids?

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Yesterday half a dozen drug policy reform groups asked President Obama to withdraw his nomination of Michele Leonhart to head the DEA, citing her continued enthusiasm for raids on medical marijuana suppliers as the agency's acting administrator. "Under Leonhart's leadership," says the joint statement by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, California NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, "the DEA has staged medical marijuana raids in apparent disregard of Attorney General Eric Holder's directive to respect state medical marijuana laws." As an example, the statement cites a recent raid on Mendocino County, California, grower Joy Greenfield, who "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." When told that Greenfield had approval from local law enforcement, the DEA agent in charge of the raid reportedly replied, "I don't care what the sheriff says." NORML et al. argue that "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.'"

Far be it from me to defend Leonhart, but her raids are not necessarily inconsistent with the DOJ's policy, which (as I've noted before) leaves lots of wiggle room for continued raids, seizures, arrests, and prosecutions. If there is any disagreement at all about the meaning of the relevant statutes, the DOJ can (and does) argue that growers and distributors are not "in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." In California, for example, local officials continue to argue with each other and with state officials about issues such as the definition of a patient "collective" (or "cooperative"), what kind of cultivation is permitted, and whether over-the-counter sales are legal. So while Mendocino County's sheriff may have been satisfied that Joy Greenfield was complying with state law, officials in other jurisdictions might have taken a different view. Even if every law enforcement official in California were of one mind about the requirements for marijuana cultivation, the DOJ could still choose to interpret state law differently. It is not even clear that the DOJ would defer to the California Supreme Court's interpretation of the law.

Like I said: lots of wiggle room. And you can't blame Leonhart for that. It was Holder who formulated the new policy, and it was President Obama who let him do it, despite his repeated campaign promises to leave medical marijuana patients and their suppliers alone. The definitive test of whether anything has changed will be in jurisdictions such as Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, which have laws that explicitly authorize and regulate the production and distribution of medical marijuana. In Colorado, which had a law that, like California's, left crucial issues related to cultivation and sale unresolved, the state legislature recently enacted new regulations that clarify the law's requirements. If the DEA nevertheless continues to raid medical marijuana suppliers in Colorado, including dispensaries that are licensed, regulated, and taxed by the government, Obama's bad faith will be clear and unambiguous.

Addendum: In addition to the July 7 raid on Joy Greenfield, medical marijuana activists are protesting a July 6 raid on John Roberts and Stephanie Whisman in Thomas Township, Michigan. Like California, Michigan allows "primary caregivers" to help patients by growing marijuana for them. Unlike California, where the state Supreme Court has said a primary caregiver must be substantially involved in a patient's life (beyond supplying him with marijuana), Michigan defines a primary caregiver simply as someone "who has agreed to assist with a patient's medical use of marihuana." According to Americans for Safe Access, Roberts and Whisman (who are engaged) were both approved as caregivers by the state Department of Community Health. They said they were each caring for five patients, which is the maximum allowed. ASA says they were "well below the legal limit" for Michigan caregivers, which is 12 plants plus two and a half ounces of "usable marihuana" for "each registered qualifying patient." The DEA's basis for claiming they were not complying with state law is unclear.

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  1. This is as good a place to threadjack as any.

    Very nice summary of the massive tax increases coming on January 1, and thereafter.

    Many from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, other from health care reform, others from I’m not sure where, exactly.

    Remember “not one dime” of tax hikes? If you were still thinking Obama’s bad faith was not yet clear and unambiguous, this should help you out.

    1. If you were still thinking Obama’s bad faith was not yet clear and unambiguous, this should help you out….

      …you are probably visiting this site for the first time.

  2. Who Is to Blame for the DEA’s Medical Marijuana Raids?

    Lemme see. Enforcement is an execitive branch responsibility. Making effective use of limited law enforcemnt funds are an executive branch respomsibility.

    Might the responsibilty ultimately rest with, I dunno, the fucking executive?

    1. Medical marijuana is Bush’s fault.

    2. “Who Is to Blame for the DEA’s Medical Marijuana Raids?”

      I blame the DEA.

  3. There is no question any longer that the directive to leave states alone was bullshit. I mean, how many fucking chances does Obama get on this? Because at this point, it seems that he gets an infinite number.

    Even his dipshit supporters have gone totally silent on this issue.

    1. I never expected Obama to be a good president but there were a few limited areas I thought he might improved. Whereas most of them are just failed campaign promises this one really pisses me off. To blatantly lie and say that they are going to stop and then just keep doing it is fucking bullshit.

    2. “There is no question any longer that the directive to leave states alone was bullshit.”

      To be fair, I don’t think anybody voted for him because they thought he would leave the states alone.

      I think a lot of swing voters backed him to repudiate the Bush Administration. …just like they voted for Dubya to repudiate the Clinton Administration.

      We’ll vote the next guy in to repudiate the Obama Administration too. Whoever gets in will say swing voters supported whatever stance on whatever issue, but that’ll be a lie.

      Stop paying so much attention to what politicians say. Only suckers think what they say is important.

  4. the DEA agent in charge of the raid reportedly replied, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.”

    I’d buy tickets to watch the local sheriff pistol whip that federal stormtrooper (to control the situation), read him his rights, frog march him to the town jail, charge him with armed robbery, issue him pink underwear, then say “I don’t care what the attorney general says.”

  5. If [whatever], Obama’s bad faith will be clear and unambiguous.

    Always a day away.

  6. I was having a decriminalization vs legalization argument with a coworker and this story is a perfect example why the former will not work here.

  7. The solution to this is to pass a law at the Federal level fully legalizing medical pot in states that allow it, as opposed to hoping that every lower level DEA agent completely complies with Obama’s stated wishes.

    1. I prefer the above mentioned solution. Get the sheriff to arrest the DEA guys for trespassing,brandishing,attempted robbery and attempted kidnapping. Do asset forfeiture on all the DEA eqipment. Make the federeal government send down lawyers. Even if the case is lost ….. no biggie, just arrest them again if they try again and repeat.

      1. Oh ya. I forget: Resisting arrest. Make that one stick even if they are cleared of everything else. And shoot all their dogs.

  8. The solution to this is to pass a law at the Federal level fully legalizing medical pot in states that allow it, as opposed to hoping that every lower level DEA agent completely complies with Obama’s stated wishes.

    1. Well, yeah, of course. But baby steps, folks, baby steps. Full MJ legalization is nowhere near politically possible. Heck, even Barney Frank’s decriminalization bill (not really full legalization) seems dead in the water.

  9. The legalization groups issued a “joint” statement?

  10. …Obama’s bad faith will be clear and unambiguous.

    It was clear and unambiguous as soon as he signed off on the phoney-baloney directive.

    If you are waiting for a lawyer and professional politician to make a definite, falsifiable statement, well, good luck with that.

    1. It was clear and unambiguous as soon as he signed off on the phoney-baloney directive.

      No kidding. I do believe this very site was full of comments pointing out the fallacy of believing that governance by press release will result in real change.

  11. The ongoing raids highlight either Obama’s inability to control his cabinet level departments or willingness to keep his committment. Shame on him either way.

  12. More pithy title:

    Where does the buck stop, again?

    ‘Tween this and the whole DADT thing, Truman is rolling in his grave swearing with a lyrical vulgarity.

    Not unlike some of our local commentators.

  13. Defund the DEA. Completely.

  14. Another test will come if a state legalizes marijuana for non-medical use.

  15. Who the fuck still spells it as marihuana?

    The early 20th century is calling and it wants its shitty anglicanization of words back.

  16. the dea is a buncha jack-booted thugs answering only to shadowy figures within the secret police sewer.

    otoh

    haven’t seen the free the herb movement so spiritually free, since the biiig toke sixties.

    as ringo recently said on his seventieth birthday: love and peace

  17. Why even bother with marijuana enforcement at all? What a waste of time, money, and resources. All to mark people as criminals who just want to feel better, increase their appetite, combat nausea, or help fight depression, without a lot of the truly harmful side effects from “legitimate” drugs.

  18. Get in this century. Look at Canada. Get rid of this outdated mentality. It is much safer than alcohol and it’s legal.

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    http://www.softwaremd.com/ has the tools we needed to increase efficiency by utilizing medical management software. They also have great training and technical support services to keep your business going.

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