No More Raids on Pot Dispensaries, Says AG

No More Raids on Pot Dispensaries, Says AG
Posted by CN Staff on February 28, 2009 at 05:54:48 PT
By Phillip S. Smith, Drug War Chronicle
Source: AlterNet
California -- In response to a question at a Wednesday news conference, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal under state law. The announcement marks the fulfillment of a President Obama campaign promise, and it marks the end of 13 years of stubborn federal resistance to state medical marijuana programs.DEA raids of medical marijuana facilities in California continued after Obama's election in November and even after his inauguration last month. Holder was asked if those raids represented Justice Department policy under the new administration.
"Shortly after the inauguration there were raids on California medical marijuana dispensaries. Do you expect these to continue?" the reporter asked, noting that the president had promised to end the raids in the campaign."No," Holder responded. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy." Watch the video here. -- 75 million Americans live in the 13 states where medical marijuana is legal. But because of the federal government's refusal to recognize state medical marijuana laws, dozens of dispensaries in California have been raided by the DEA, typically in over-the-top paramilitary-style operations. More than a hundred people are facing prosecution, sentencing, or are already imprisoned under draconian federal marijuana laws because of their roles in operating dispensaries."There has been a lot of collateral damage in the federal campaign against medical marijuana patients," said Steph Sherer, medical marijuana patient and executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation's largest medical cannabis advocacy organization. "We need to stop the prosecutions, bring the prisoners home, and begin working to eliminate the conflict between state and federal medical marijuana laws."At an ASA press conference hastily called for Thursday afternoon, Sherer elaborated. "I'm overjoyed to finally hold a press conference with some great news," she said. "Today is a victory and a huge step forward in what has been at times a cruel and tragic period. My outrage over the raids was shared by millions of Americans, and now our collective voice has been heard in Washington. We look forward to working with the Obama administration to harmonize the conflicts with state laws once and for all."But for some patients and dispensary operators, the damage has already been done. Larry Epstein operates a legal medical cannabis dispensing collective in Marina Del Rey, California, that was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on February 4, despite President Obama's statements on the campaign trail indicating a change in federal policy."We had been operating as a legitimate cooperative dispensary per California law for a number of years," said Epstein. "But the DEA came in here as if we were operating an illegal drug cartel. They stole all our property, all our product, and froze our bank accounts. Now, we can't pay our taxes; that's part of what they stole. It's devastating when they do those types of actions, never mind the hundreds of patients who rely on our facility to get their medicine."Heather Poet operates a medical cannabis dispensing collective in Santa Barbara, California. The Justice Department has pressured her landlord to evict the collective using threats of prosecution and civil asset forfeiture. Her case prompted US Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) to ask Attorney General Holder to stop any and all prosecutions of property owners in a February 16 letter."Our landlord has twice been threatened by the US Attorney for the Central District of California, most recently just last month," Poet said. "If he did not initiate the termination of our lease for the 'illegal use' of his property -- we were operating legally under California law -- they would begin forfeiture proceedings against his property. That's when I contacted Rep. Capps. Within a week, she had contacted ASA and begun working on that letter. We are so grateful and proud of her for working so quickly to protect our rights and those of our patients. This has been a real travesty for so many sick people in California who have had to worry. Now, thousands of people will be able to breathe easier."One person who isn't breathing easier just yet is Charles C. Lynch, a Morro Bay dispensary operator arrested and convicted on federal marijuana distribution charges. Lynch faces the dubious distinction of being perhaps the last person sent to prison under the federal war against medical marijuana; he faces at least a five-year mandatory minimum sentence when he is sentenced March 23."I became a medical marijuana patient in 2005 and decided we needed a dispensary here in the San Luis Obispo area so patients didn't have to drive 90 miles to Santa Barbara," Lynch explained. "Before I opened the dispensary, I called the DEA and asked them their policy. They told me it was up to the cities and towns, so I got a business license from the city of Morro Bay, and opened up on April 1, 2006. The mayor, the city attorney, and council members all came by to visit the facility. We even joined the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce. I did everything I thought was necessary to run a legitimate business."But thanks to a recalcitrant local sheriff who, lacking any basis under state law to go after the dispensary, sicced the DEA on it, Lynch's dispensary was raided. "In March 2007, they raided me, took all my money and froze my bank account. They made it sound like I was selling drugs to children in the schoolyard. The city of Morro Bay reissued my business license -- the DEA had stolen it, too -- and I reopened for business. Two weeks later, the DEA threatened my landlord with forfeiture unless he evicted us for good, so on March 16, 2007, the dispensary closed for good."That has been sufficient to slake the fed's thirst for vengeance in many dispensary raids: Trash the premises, steal the money and property, and drive the business out of existence. But in other cases, federal prosecutors wanted an extra pound of flesh and actually prosecuted dispensary operators. Charles Lynch falls into that unfortunate latter category."On July 17, 2007, I woke up to federal agents banging down my door with an arrest warrant for federal marijuana distribution charges," Lynch related. "I had a spotless record, but I had to post a $400,000 bond to get out of federal detention. The DEA and the sheriff did everything in their power to defame me, destroy me, and destroy my life. Now, I have been found guilty on five counts of distribution and await sentencing. I'm filing for bankruptcy, my friends are scared to talk to me because the feds are breathing down my neck. They've destroyed my life."Clearly, Attorney General Holder's announcement Wednesday is a major breakthrough for the medical marijuana movement. Just as clearly, there are still messes to clean up and injustices to be righted. It is only when there is no one remaining in or threatened with federal prison for helping sick patients that the medical marijuana movement will have achieved real justice.Note: Obama fulfills a campaign promise, marking the end of an era of federal resistance to state medical marijuana programs.Complete Title: Marijuana Milestone: No More Raids on Pot Dispensaries, Says Attorney GeneralSource: AlterNet (US)Author: Phillip S. Smith, Drug War ChroniclePublished: February 28, 2009Copyright: 2009 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: Articles:Under Obama, Drug War Tactics Poised To Shift AG Says Medical Marijuana Raids To End
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on March 01, 2009 at 20:07:01 PT
I know we have a long way to go. We've been waiting a long time and waiting a little longer won't be that hard I don't think.
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Comment #15 posted by unkat27 on March 01, 2009 at 16:36:20 PT
Thanx FoM. Let's hope the DEA goes along with it. Changing the federal law is the thing to do, but that usually takes time. With all the issues the new president has to work with, it may not be considered a priority, even though it should be. If it isn't considered a priority, we may be in for another long wait.
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Comment #14 posted by FoM on March 01, 2009 at 13:52:02 PT
I missed all of what I wanted to post so here it is. It makes better sense this way. Obama probably will work on having the Federal Law changed it seems from what he said in this interview.***Nelson: Federal law, of course, still considers it a controlled substance.Obama: RightNelson: And there have been attempts from Washington to punish doctorsObama: Yeah, I would not punish doctors if its prescribed in a way that is appropriate; that may require some changes in federal law. ***Reschedule it to the lowest it can be is what I wish for.
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on March 01, 2009 at 13:14:29 PT
I found this. I hope it helps.Nelson: And there have been attempts from Washington to punish doctorsObama: Yeah, I would not punish doctors if its prescribed in a way that is appropriate; that may require some changes in federal law.
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Comment #12 posted by unkat27 on March 01, 2009 at 12:33:20 PT
What about the Docs?
It's good to know that the intention to keep this campaign promise has been confirmed. I won't voice any doubts because Obama just realized that this was one promise he had to keep or risk losing a lot of support. What concerns me is how the DEA might go about getting around this. For example, we know they have gone after doctors who prescribe mm to patients before. How safe are the doctors? Will they continue to go after them? After all, without doctors who make legal prescriptions for patients, patients cannot purchase mm legally, right?I'm personally concerned with this point, because now that the DEA won't be making mm club raids, I'm thinking it may be time for me to seek a doctor who would be willing to help me get a legal prescription and I want to know how safe the doctor will be from the DEA thugs.
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Comment #11 posted by observer on March 01, 2009 at 00:10:08 PT
Yay !
Obama fulfills a campaign promise, marking the end of an era of federal resistance to state medical marijuana programs.Whoa... this looks like very good news! Time will tell, but, so far so good! Now we have to be ready for a backlash against this by forces of political opportunism that will try to do with this what was done to Clinton in his early days when he floated a legalization trial balloon from Elders. But we are much better organized and motivated this go-round and even expecting a Reagan-esque reaction, so the (apparent) fact that the Obama admin may have decided to go for it anyway bodes well. (Those political calculations have been made and maybe came up on the side of giving states back a bit of cannabis-autonomy. We'll see.) 
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on February 28, 2009 at 17:26:31 PT
Real Time With Bill Maher Panel Discussion 
February 27, 2009
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Comment #9 posted by fight_4_freedom on February 28, 2009 at 15:12:25 PT
That's horrible that they would terrorize you 
like that. But it's absolutely awesome that you took a big puff right in front of them. But You're right....You're going to jail anyways....might as well medicate before hand. One of the times I was arrested for possession, before he put me in the car I asked "Since I'm going to jail anyways, do you mind if I take a couple puffs to calm my nerves"?? He just gave me a dirty look and said with an attitude "Get in the car".I take it he didn't approve of me asking. Then I hounded him the entire way about our laws and the injustices. The only thing he basically said was "I don't make the laws, I just enforce them." Then he said...."All I can tell you is that if you don't like the law, try to change it". That's when my life of activism began.
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Comment #8 posted by Sam Adams on February 28, 2009 at 12:32:05 PT
they took you away but we're glad you're back! Or gone, since I think you were actually here.This article brings up the issue of amnesty - what about people doing long jail terms for dispenaries, will they be set free or at least allowed to appeal? Here in Mass. I just met someone at a bar the other night who's boyfriend is being prosecuted to the hilt for MJ possession. Apparently he was caught a few days before Decrim took effect in Jan.Rather than drop the case and save the state some money, the DA and judge are prosecuting the hell out of the guy, just for possession, even though the penalty is now a $100 ticket. He's having to pay big $$ to a lawyer on it.It reminds me of the Nazis that fought on after WWII. Sort of like rooting out fleas or bedbugs, it's always difficult to get the last few parasites out.
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on February 28, 2009 at 11:26:30 PT
The Tuscarora people
have a very interesting history.
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Comment #6 posted by Hope on February 28, 2009 at 10:57:58 PT
If Tuscarora means hemp gatherers... what must Tuscaloosa, Tuskegee, and Tuscon mean? 
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on February 28, 2009 at 09:04:40 PT
John Tyler 
Tuscarora Indian Tribe HistoryTuscarora (Skurš±'rš§n', 'hemp gatherers,' the Apocynum cunnabinum, or Indian hemp, being a plant of many uses among the Carolina Tuscarora; the native form of this appellative is impersonal, there being no expressed pronominal affix to indicate person, number, or gender).
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Comment #4 posted by John Tyler on February 28, 2009 at 08:46:57 PT
Off topic
We had discussed this issue a while back about whether or not Native American tribes had cannabis or not, but then I saw this in High Times about the Tuscarora Indians whose name means People of the Hemp or hemp gathers. There might be some evidence that some tribes did have cannabis traditions before the arrival of the colonists. No big deal, just some interesting speculation.
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on February 28, 2009 at 08:44:02 PT
You are a cool guy. I probably would have had a heart attack or at least fainted or something. Firing it up. That is just beyond cool.Still, I'm furious at them for what they did to you and Linda. Even when they're shut down, and they will be ... I'll still be furious about what decent people like yourselves have had to suffer. I'm so thankful they didn't kill you. 
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Comment #2 posted by John Tyler on February 28, 2009 at 07:49:50 PT
That is cool.
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Comment #1 posted by runruff on February 28, 2009 at 07:36:52 PT
Smokin' with the DEA !
"California have been raided by the DEA, typically in over-the-top paramilitary-style operations".This statement is very personal to me! First let me tell you that I don't own any weapons of any kind. I had a 55 year history of peaceful behaviour and a resume' of community projects I had created. Mostly for to benefit the children.They came at about 9:AM while my wife and I were having tea and coffee in front of the wood stove. 40 of them pointing machine guns and shouting don't move, hands up don't move, they stormed our house military style to "secure the premises". The premises at that time included my timid little sheep dog Zelda Mae. My wife and I were cool, calm and cordial. I said , "I see you are here to arrest my flowers!" Many faces turned to look at each other, kind of puzzled. It turns out that these guys are not what you would call the brightest candles on the cake. In fact they turned out to be what I would call "thuggy".So they hand cuffed me and sat me down in my easy chair right in the midst of them. 
Well, I thought the jig's up for sure so I took my pipe out of my robe pocket and fired it up. I actually was thinking that if I was going to jail I might as well get high so I could sleep through it.The agents stared at me at first as if to say what the hell is he doing? When I exhaled strait up into the air every agent in the room looked away with a wtf! I smiled, put my pipe back into my robe pocket.They checked my status with the office and they said Mr. Sisson has some health issues and should be taken to the hospital emergency for admission and kept there until he sees the judge in the morning!They took me away!
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