(Commentary on this late-breaking important news item is reprinted from our blog in order to include it in this week's issue. Come back for next week's Chronicle for a news report on it, and visit The Speakeasy to read Scott Morgan's commentary on a daily basis.)
The DEA's recent tough-guy tactics in Colorado aren't winning them any friends in the press, the public, or even in politics. Colorado Congressman Jared Polis sent a scathing letter to Attorney General Holder and President Obama demanding that DEA be required to uphold the administration's policy of respecting medical marijuana laws. Here it is in part:
Despite these formal guidelines, Friday, February 12, 2010, agents from the US Department of Justice's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided the home of medical marijuana caregiver Chris Bartkowicz in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. In a news article in the Denver Post the next day, the lead DEA agent in the raid, Jeffrey Sweetin, claimed "We're still going to continue to investigate and arrest people... Technically, every dispensary in the state is in blatant violation of federal law," he said. "The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody. They're violating federal law; they're at risk of arrest and imprisonment."
Agent Sweetin's comment that "we arrest everybody" is of great concern to me and to the people of Colorado, who overwhelmingly voted to allow medical marijuana. Coloradans suffering from debilitating medical conditions, many of them disabled, elderly, veterans, or otherwise vulnerable people, have expressed their concern to me that the DEA will come into medical marijuana dispensaries, which are legal under Colorado law, and "arrest everybody" present. Although Agent Sweetin reportedly has backed away from his comments, he has yet to issue a written clarification or resign, thus the widespread panic in Colorado continues.
On May 14, 2009, Mr. Kerlikowske told the Wall Street Journal: "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country." The actions and commentary of Mr. Sweetin are inconsistent with the idea of not waging war against the people of the State of Colorado and are a contradiction to your agency's laudable policies. [Westword]
Right on. We're witnessing a conspicuous disruption of the White House's carefully crafted effort to reduce controversy in the war on drugs, and it's clear that the silence must soon be broken in Washington. It's easy to say "we're not at war," but until you order the soldiers under your command to lay down their arms, it won't be possible to sugarcoat any of this.