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Photo Essay: Hollywood Medical Marijuana DEA Raid

Los Angeles, CA
United States
LAist (CA)

First Amendment: Freaked Out Feds Indict Pair for Posting Flyers Naming Snitch

A federal grand jury in Philadelphia Tuesday indicted two people, an accused drug dealer and his girlfriend, for passing out flyers naming a confidential informant in his federal drug case as a snitch. No law protects informants from having their identities made public, but federal prosecutors pushed -- and succeeded -- in this case for an indictment on witness intimidation and conspiracy charges.

The information on the flyers came from the Who's A Rat? web site, which lists information on more than 4,300 informants and 400 undercover officers. US Attorney Patrick Meehan called the web site "the new enemy" of law enforcement and its snitches.

"It's a by-product of the stop-snitching culture that we should all find deeply disturbing," Meehan said at a news conference, and "has the potential to compromise countless prosecutions across the country."

Meehan conceded the web site is protected by the First Amendment, but decided to indict the pair anyway for trying to intimidate witnesses.

The two are Joseph Davis, currently serving a 17-year sentence for PCP trafficking, thanks in part to the informant targeted in the flyers, and his girlfriend, 24-year-old Adero Miwo. Davis and the informant were both indicted in the PCP case, and the informant, known as "D.S." turned state's evidence and testified against Davis.

Davis and Miwo allegedly then distributed flyers naming D.S. as a snitch on windshields, utility poles, and mailboxes in the West Philadelphia neighborhood where he lived. Relying on information posted on Who's A Rat, the pair produced flyers accusing him of informing and showing his photo, along with the following comment: "This guy is a drunk, and heavy weed smoker, and a recognized car thief among his peers. He is the one who needs to be taken off the streets," according to court documents.

Davis, who is already behind bars, faces up to another 10 years in prison, while Miwo faces up to three years.

Law enforcement authorities across the US have complained loudly that the "stop snitching" movement that has spread around the country is preventing them from solving crimes. Who's a Rat isn't helping, they complain.

Such web sites show a "profound lack of respect" for the legal system, complained JP Weis, head of the Philadelphia FBI office. "The warped message" on city streets, he said, "is that it's somehow worse to provide information about a crime than it is to actually commit a crime." And that, Weis said, is "mind-boggling."

Neither Weis nor Meehan addressed why there is a "profound lack of respect" for the legal system or what role the drug war, much of it built around coercing people into becoming informants, has to do with the situation.

Who's a Rat spokesman Chris Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the web site posts public information submitted by others and is protected by the First Amendment. Brown said he "can't believe that someone got indicted for hanging a flyer" and that such publicity only "makes the site that much more popular."

Feature: DEA Raids Ten Los Angeles Dispensaries Same Day City Council Asks It To Butt Out

In what appears to be the latest move in an ever-escalating campaign of attacks against California medical marijuana dispensaries, the DEA Wednesday raided 10 Los Angeles-area dispensaries, seizing marijuana, marijuana products, cash, and two guns. The raids came the same day the Los Angeles City Council introduced an ordinance to regulate dispensaries in the city and approved a resolution calling on federal authorities to quit prosecuting medical marijuana providers operating legally under California law.

local news coverage
The raids did not go unchallenged, either by local officials or by activists. When DEA agents raided the Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group (LAPCG) on Santa Monica Boulevard, they were met by more than a hundred protestors, who blocked access to the building and surrounded DEA vehicles to prevent raiders taking away people at the dispensary. Five people were arrested in that incident.

A DEA spokesperson in Washington told the Chronicle five arrests were made during the raids, but it appears those arrests were of people engaging in civil disobedience to protest the raids -- not dispensary owners or employees.

"Some people were arrested for civil disobedience after barricading the facility itself because federal agents were detaining people inside," said Kris Hermes, communications director for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana defense group whose rapid response network brings out protestors in response to such raids. "We had at least a couple of hundred people very agitated by what the DEA was doing, and some of them decided to obstruct the agents. The DEA was prevented from being able to process those inside and therefore released them," he said.

City officials who that same day had introduced an ordinance calling for a moratorium on new dispensaries in the city while it drafts regulations governing their operation, but who also called on the DEA to quit prosecuting medical marijuana providers, also reacted angrily. City Councilman Dennis Zine, who authored the letter, called the agency "bullies" at a pre-scheduled news conference that took place as the raids were ongoing.

"I am greatly disturbed that the Drug Enforcement Administration would initiate an enforcement action against medical marijuana facilities in the city of Los Angeles during a news conference regarding City Council support of an interim control ordinance to regulate all facilities within the city," Zine said. "This action by the DEA is contrary to the vote of Californians who overwhelmingly voted to support medicinal marijuana use by those facing serious and life-threatening illnesses," he said. "The DEA needs to focus their attention and enforcement action on the illegal drug dealers who are terrorizing communities in Los Angeles."

Despite the angry protests of patients, activists and elected officials, the DEA was unmoved. "The DEA is required to enforce the Controlled Substances Act," replied tight-lipped spokesperson Rogene Waite when asked about the opposition the raids are engendering. "There has been no change in our policy," she said when asked if the raids signaled a new offensive.

But despite the DEA's protestations, a ramping up of DEA activity directed at dispensaries seems evident. Dozens of dispensaries have been raided this year, including 11 in Los Angeles in January. Hundreds of medical marijuana cases are now pending in the federal courts in California. Last week, the DEA and the Justice Department announced the indictments of four dispensary operators, two in the Los Angeles area, one in San Luis Obispo, and one in Bakersfield. And earlier this month, the DEA and the Justice Department unveiled a new tactic in their war on medical marijuana: Federal authorities in Los Angeles sent a letter to dozens of dispensary landlords warning them they faced seizure of their property or even criminal charges if they continued to rent to the dispensaries.

"The DEA appears to be intensifying its campaign against medical marijuana," said ASA's Hermes. "There are not only the increased raids here in Los Angeles, but also the threats to property owners who choose to rent to medical marijuana providers. This is tantamount to intimidation, and it's a last-ditch effort by the federal government to undermine the state's medical marijuana law."

"It is an escalation, and it's very frightening," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "They can't stop medical marijuana's momentum because truth, common sense, and decency are on our side, but in the meantime they can cause a lot of suffering for a lot of people."

For California NORML head Dale Gieringer, the raids are like the final twitches of a dying dinosaur's tail. "It's a rear-guard action by the DEA," he said. "They went after the heart of responsible medical cannabis activism by going after the California Patients and Caregivers group. That's where people met to deal responsibly with the dispensary issue. This is a slap in the face to Los Angeles, and I think people there are going to end up being as angry as they already are in Northern California," he predicted.

Still, said Gieringer, the raids won't stop the dispensaries. "There are already 400 of them across the state, maybe more, who knows?" he said. "If the DEA is trying to wipe out the dispensaries, they are now several years too late."

The battle between the federal drug enforcers and the people, patients, and elected officials of California over medical marijuana continues. Congress could have taken the wind out of the DEA's sails by passing the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would have cut off federal funding for the raids, but it chose not to Wednesday night, just hours after the latest raids took place. That means, at least for now, it's up to the people of California to protect themselves.

Medical marijuana supporters and fellow activists will be taking steps to do just that on Friday. ASA has called for demonstrations against the raids to occur across the state Friday morning. Civil disobedience has already broken out on Santa Monica Boulevard. Maybe there will be more to come.

Henry Waxman's War

Washington, DC
United States
The Washington Post

DEA raids 10 pot shops

Los Angeles, CA
United States
Los Angeles Times


Meanwhile, the DEA raided at least six medical marijuana dispensaries in LA. Nice timing, DEA, on behalf of patients everywhere (especially in Los Angeles), thank you for your blind obedience to cruel authority. I'm going to put in another link to the letter I received from a medical marijuana patient this week. It's been pushed down by the flurry of posts tonight, but it deserves to be read.
Los Angeles, CA
United States

ONDCP's "Cocaine Shortage" Announcement is Pure Fiction

This week, the drug czar's office has tricked several newspapers into reporting on a so-called "cocaine shortage":
EL PASO — White House drug czar John Walters said wholesale prices of cocaine have risen in more than a dozen major U.S. cities as supplies of the powerful drug have shrunk, including in high-volume markets like Los Angeles and New York. [AP]
The irony, of course, is that there's no such thing as a cocaine shortage. Really, cocaine is probably the last thing we'll ever run out of in America, and if you think otherwise, maybe it's because people aren't telling you how much cocaine they've got.

Fortunately, Associated Press at least had the commonsense to ask an actual expert about the supposed shortage:
Peter Reuter, a public policy professor at the University of Maryland who studies illicit drugs and organized crime, said prices of cocaine have long been declining and that brief price surges are not uncommon. He said gauging the future of the cocaine trade after just a few months is difficult.

"We see short term (price) increases that go on for three, or six months even," Reuter said. "They don't tend to be too long, and then the downward trend continues."
One could praise AP for including Reuter's comments, but I won't. If AP's Alicia Caldwell actually listened to what he said, she'd understand that the story isn’t accurate enough to be worth writing. Moreover, Reuter's revealing analysis -- which renders the entire report meaningless –- is relegated to the bowels of the article. The fact that cocaine prices have continually gone down for decades is treated as an afterthought, a mere side note, in a story that otherwise regurgitates ONDCP's claims about the effectiveness of its own work.

Distinguished members of the press, I beg you once again: whenever the Office of National Drug Control Policy approaches you and offers to describe how well the drug war is going, just look around. Has anything changed? It shouldn’t even be necessary to ask Peter Reuter if their claims make sense. The idea that we're experiencing a cocaine shortage is so plainly ridiculous, I don't see how anyone could report such a thing with a straight face.

I'm reminded of real journalist Ken Silverstein's recent comment about his colleagues in the press:
As a class, they honor politeness over honesty and believe that being "balanced" means giving the same weight to a lie as you give to the truth.
How true -- and depressing – that is.
United States

Rumors of a DEA Blog Prompt Curiosity & Concern

Adweek profiles The Adfero Group, whose VP Christopher Battle is helping the DEA Foundation improve its image and promote its ridiculous museum.
[DEA] has also asked Adfero to create an interactive Web site that will include blogs and virtual tours of the museum. Right now, the only Web site that exists is a page about the museum on the DEA Web site. Plans to include a blog and a speaker's bureau are also under discussion.

A DEA Blog, huh? Sounds just awesome. Let's hope it's more interesting than the compost pile that passes for a blog over at ONDCP. I wanna see candid posts like "If Potent Pot Doesn't Kill These Hippies, We Will," or "Top 10 Sick People We Don't Care About."

So far the only thing we know about this blog is that it will be completely devoid of any intellectual value. They're already prepared to promise us that much:

The group's strategy going forward is to take its slogan, "Hope through education," and "take the debate about drugs out of the realm of statistics and policy and move it into the realm of personal stories," says Battle.
Is this a tacit acknowledgement that the discussion of stats and policy inherently disadvantages them? Because, as true as that is, I certainly wasn't expecting them to admit it. That should be their blog motto for sure, and I'm so glad they're giving our tax-dollars to a fancy consulting firm to help them brainstorm these sorts of things.

How about this:

"DEA Blog: Replacing Stats and Policy With Anecdotes and Hyperbole"

United States

Even Anti-Meth Activists Oppose the Drug War

Tom Siebel is a multimillionaire philanthropist who funded terrifying anti-meth ads in Montana. His work has been praised by ONDCP, but now he's speaking out against the drug war.

The nation's drug policy "is a little bit crazy," Montana Meth Project founder Tom Siebel said Thursday.
Pointing out that the skyrocketing rate of incarceration is mostly because of drug offenses, Siebel said, "it used to be that we put people in jail who we were scared of. Now we put people in jail we're mad at."

Prison doesn't work, he said.

"They just get a better education," Siebel added. "It's like a graduate school program in drug distribution." [Great Falls Tribune]

Tom Siebel absolutely hates meth, and yet he also opposes the drug war. How can this be? Maybe his aggressive anti-meth ads are actually some sort of drug legalization conspiracy, because everyone knows that only "pro-drug groups" would ever criticize the wisdom of trying to arrest our way out of the drug problem.

Of course, Tom Siebel's work and his words demonstrate that people who care about victims of drug addiction can simultaneously oppose drug abuse while advocating commonsense policies that emphasize public health and reject mass incarceration. Having previously heaped praise upon Tom Siebel, will ONDCP now accuse him of being "pro-drug"?

Regardless, it is becoming increasingly obvious that ONDCP couldn't alienate anti-drug activists, the U.S. Congress, and the academic community any faster if they were actually doing speed themselves.

United States

Sober North Dakotans Hope to Legalize Hemp

Osnabrock, ND
United States
The New York Times

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