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Afghanistan: US Commander Orders NATO to Kill All Opium Dealers -- NATO Balks

According to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, top NATO commander in Afghanistan, US Gen. John Craddock, has issued a "guidance" allowing NATO troops "to attack directly drug producers and facilities throughout Afghanistan." But other NATO commanders do not want to follow that order, leading to a rift at the top of the allied war machine over who is a legitimate military target.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium-smaller.jpg
the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
NATO has reluctantly embraced an expansion of its mission from fighting the Taliban and related insurgents to going after drug trade participants linked to the insurgents. But Gen. Craddock's directive broadens the mission to include any drug traffickers or drug production facilities.

According to the document, a copy of which Der Spiegel says it has, NATO troops can now use deadly force against drug traffickers even when there is no proof they are engaged in armed resistance to NATO/US troops or their Afghan government allies. But that's not what NATO countries bargained for in October, when they agreed to allow NATO soldiers to attack opium traffickers linked to the Taliban.

It is "no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective," Craddock wrote. The alliance "has decided that [drug traffickers and narcotics facilities] are inextricably linked to the Opposing Military Forces, and thus may be attacked."

Gen. Craddock sent his directive on January 5 to Egon Ramms, the German leader at NATO command in the Netherlands, and David McKiernan, commander of the NATO peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. But both commanders rejected it, arguing that the order is illegitimate and violates the laws of war. McKiernan sent a classified letter from Kabul claiming that Craddock was trying to create "a new category" in the rules of engagement that would "seriously undermine the commitment ISAF has made to the Afghan people and the international community... to restrain our use of force and avoid civilian casualties to the greatest degree predictable."

The topic of civilian deaths at the hands of NATO and US troops in Afghanistan is an increasingly prickly one with the people and government of Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has complained loudly and frequently about repeated US air strikes killing civilians. NATO was forced this week to defend itself by arguing that it had only killed 97 civilians last year, compared to nearly 10 times that by the Taliban.

It is unclear how the conflict between the NATO allies will be resolved. But if Craddock has his way and NATO declares open season on the drug trade, there will be a true drug war in Afghanistan. In a country where the drug trade accounts for around half the gross national product and where members of the government and independent warlords as well as the Taliban have a hand in the trade, it is difficult to see how that will help win hearts and minds.

Drug Task Forces: House Passes Economic Stimulus Bill with Byrne Grant Funds Intact, Reform Advocates Mobilize

The US House of Representatives Wednesday passed the $819 billion economic stimulus bill endorsed by the Democratic leadership and President Obama. The $4 billion in "public safety" funding in the bill includes $3 billion for the Byrne Justice Action Grant program and $1 billion for the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program. (For detailed coverage of the Byrne grant program, which funds multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task forces, see our story last week here.) But reform advocates, including 15 national organizations, are calling for the funding to be removed or redirected and hoping the Senate will listen.

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In a Thursday press release, the groups warned that "a 'stimulus' directed at law enforcement is misguided and could be counterproductive by increasing costly arrests and imprisonments for lower-level offenses." Instead, the groups called for the $4 billion to be spent on "more comprehensive approaches" that will reduce incarceration rates and decrease spending on jails, prisons, and police. They called for spending to be refocused on education, job training, treatment, and other programs shown to boost communities and local economies.

"Economic security is a crucial element of an effective public safety strategy, but this funding will stimulate neither Main Street nor safe streets," said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), a research organization that studies alternatives to incarceration. "Instead of placing our limited resources in the most expensive, deep end of the system -- police and prisons -- it's time we move more funding upstream, to the kinds of jobs and programs that are proven to promote safety and support communities."

Under the Bush administration, both the Byrne grants and the COPS program were slashed because they were "not able to demonstrate an impact on reducing crime," and the Byrne grants' "lack of long-term goals and measures inhibited targeting of resources to address crime needs," as the Office of Management and Budget put it.

"A $4 billion mistake now will be magnified in the future; jails and prisons will continue to grow at the expense of states and counties, which will be forced to find funds to imprison people by cutting critical community services," said Velázquez. "Let's seize this opportunity to move in the right direction by investing in a more positive future."

The bill now heads to the Senate.

The groups calling for eliminating the Byrne grant and COPS funding are: the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Humane Association, the American Psychological Association, the Center for Children's Law and Policy, the Drug Policy Alliance, the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, the Justice Policy Institute, the Open Society Policy Center, the National Black Police Association, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, the Sentencing Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the United Methodist Church, and Youth Represent.

Press Release: DEA Defies Obama Pledge, Raids Medical Marijuana State, Denies Marijuana FDA Research

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JANUARY 29, 2009 CONTACT: Dan Bernath, MPP assistant director of communications, 202-462-5747, ext. 2030 DEA Defies Obama Pledge, Raids Medical Marijuana State, Denies Marijuana FDA Research Medical Marijuana Advocates Call on New President to Rein in Rogue Drug Enforcement Administration WASHINGTON — Officials at the Marijuana Policy Project today accused the Drug Enforcement Administration of defying President Barack Obama's stated position by raiding a California medical marijuana dispensary and called on the president to immediately replace Bush administration holdovers at the DEA. The DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Lake Tahoe, Calif., Jan. 22 – only two days after President Obama's inauguration. During the presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly promised not to waste federal resources interfering in states with laws protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest, and he told Southern Oregon's Mail Tribune editorial board on March 28, 2008, "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue." MPP also urged President Obama to instruct the Bush-appointed current administrator of the DEA to delay a final ruling on a Motion to Reconsider its Jan. 12 decision to deny an application by a University of Massachusetts-Amherst researcher to grow research-grade marijuana in a secure facility, arguing that Obama's own administrator should get to make that decision once in place. The DEA's Jan. 12 denial was one among a series of unrelated 11th-hour regulatory actions the Bush administration attempted to finalize before leaving office. The DEA could rule on the motion as early as Monday unless the White House stops Bush holdover, Michele Leonhart, the DEA administrator. The DEA's Jan. 12 decision came nearly two years after the its own administrative law judge, Mary Ellen Bittner, ruled that approving the application would "be in the public's interest" and after years of delay on the part of the Bush administration. "On the first day of the new administration, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel issued a memo to departments and agencies directing them to hold off on issuing final regulations until President Obama's appointees have a chance to review them," said Aaron Houston, MPP director of government relations. "We're just asking for the same thing here. We'd like a fair hearing from new leadership at the DEA." With more than 26,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.MarijuanaPolicy.org. ####

Obama Appoints Temporary Drug Czar

Amidst the inauguration fanfare, we failed to notice that Obama immediately appointed ONDCP’s general counsel Ed Jurith to serve as acting director, i.e. drug czar. You can read Jurith’s bio here and my thoughts on him here.

This is interesting because it’s a definite improvement over Bush’s last minute appointment of Patrick Ward, another ONDCP insider, to run the office upon John Walters’s departure. Jurith is hardly a friend of reform on any issue I’m aware of, but his background is in law, while Ward has been directly and heavily involved in interdiction programs.

With Jurith being the preferable choice, I’m wondering if Obama actually did this for the right reasons as he looks for a permanent candidate to fill the position. That’s impossible to say, but it’s a small step in the right direction. Let’s hope for a bigger one soon.

Obama and Medical Marijuana

You Can Make a Difference

 

 

Dear friends,

Less than two days. That's how long it took ex-President Bush's cronies inside the federal government to strike out at President Obama and use taxpayer money to undermine him.

Last Thursday the DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in California, putting the lives of cancer, HIV/AIDS and other patients at risk.

But we can show President Obama that the American people will stand with him in this fight and hold him accountable for his campaign promise to end these raids.

As you may know, President Obama promised to end the Bush administration's cruel and costly raids on medical marijuana patients and caregivers in states where marijuana is legal for medical use. He's in the process of replacing Bush officials who are the source of the problem, but that takes time.

Quite frankly, what the Bush loyalists inside the DEA did in South Lake Tahoe is the equivalent of giving President Obama the finger. 

Now is our chance to urge President Obama to protect at-risk patients. If he doesn't stand up forcefully to Bush's cronies, they will continue to undermine his presidency. And terminally ill patients will suffer.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance

Location: 
CA
United States

Bush holdovers raid medical marijuana dispensary

Dear friends:

Yesterday — with the leadership of the Department of Justice in flux while Attorney General-designate Eric Holder awaits confirmation by the Senate — Bush administration holdovers raided a medical marijuana dispensary in South Lake Tahoe, California.

President Obama vowed repeatedly during his campaign to stop such raids if elected, and we have every reason to believe he will make good on that promise. However, four top positions at the DEA are still filled by Bush cronies, who are attempting to undercut the president's pledge.

Would you please take one minute to use MPP’s easy online system to e-mail the president and ask him to get his new leadership in place at the DEA quickly, so that these cruel and outdated policies finally end? 

President Obama has promised that arresting patients and raiding clinics in states where medical marijuana is legal won't be acceptable on his watch. Getting political appointees in place takes time, but yesterday the Bush holdovers showed that we must move swiftly.

Please write the White House today to urge the president to quickly place his new leaders at the DEA.

You can see some of the statements the president has made about medical marijuana (generally in response to questions from MPP) here.

Please send your e-mail right away. (You can also call the White House at 202-456-1111.)

Thank you,

Kampia signature (e-mail sized)

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Location: 
South Lake Tahoe, CA
United States

Press Release: First Medical Marijuana Raid by DEA under Obama Administration Advocates call on president Obama to quickly change harmful, outdated policy

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access] For Immediate Release: January 22, 2009 Contact: ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes at 510-681-6361 First Medical Marijuana Raid by DEA under Obama Administration Advocates call on president Obama to quickly change harmful, outdated policy Oakland, CA -- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided a medical marijuana dispensary today in South Lake Tahoe, California, in the first days of the new Obama Administration. Even though President Barack Obama had made repeated promises during his election campaign to end federal raids in medical marijuana states, many high-ranking Bush Administration officials have yet to leave office. For example, still at the helm of the DEA is acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, who has been responsible for numerous federal raids in California, following in the footsteps of her predecessor Karen Tandy. Neither Eric Holder, President Obama's pick for U.S. Attorney General, nor a new DEA Administrator, have taken office yet. "Whether or not this unconscionable raid on a medical marijuana provider is the fault of federal officials from the previous administration, President Obama has an opportunity to change this harmful and outdated policy," said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs for Americans for Safe Access (ASA). "We are hopeful that these are the last remnants of the Bush regime and that President Obama will quickly develop a more compassionate policy toward our most vulnerable citizens." Medical marijuana and an unknown amount of cash was seized during the raid today from Holistic Solutions, but no arrests were made. This first DEA raid under the new Obama Administration is another example of more than 100 raids on medical marijuana providers that have occurred in California over the past two years. While the greatest federal enforcement has occurred in California, the DEA has been active in other states as well. Federal agents raided the Washington State offices of a medical marijuana advocacy group that was supplying starter plants to hundreds of authorized patients. In Oregon, a federal grand jury was used by the DEA to obtain the medical records of several patients, an effort that was later rejected by a federal court. The DEA also went as far as to threaten New Mexico officials for planning to implement that states medical marijuana distribution program. "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users," Senator Obama said in an August 2007 statement. "It's not a good use of our resources," he continued. This statement was followed up by Obama in other public events in the run up to the election. "President Obama must rise to the occasion by quickly correcting this problem and by keeping the promise he made to the voters of this country," said Woodson. ASA has been working with the new Administration on changing federal law around medical marijuana, which has included providing a comprehensive set of policy recommendations. Further information: Comments by Obama on ending medical marijuana raids: http://granitestaters.com/candidates/barack_obama.html ASA medical marijuana recommendations for incoming president Barack Obama: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/PresidentialRecommendations # # #
Location: 
South Lake Tahoe, CA
United States

The White House: Obama on Drug Policy

The incoming Obama administration has posted its agenda online at the White House web site Whitehouse.gov. While neither drug policy nor criminal justice merited its own category in the Obama agenda, several of the broad categories listed do contain references to drug and crime policy and provide a strong indication of the administration's proclivities.

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But before getting into what the agenda mentions, it's worth noting what the agenda does not mention: marijuana. There is not a word about the nation's most widely used illicit drug or the nearly 900,000 arrests a year generated by marijuana prohibition. Nor, despite Obama campaign pledges, is there a word about medical marijuana or ending the DEA raids on providers in California -- which doesn't necessarily mean he will go back on his word. It could well be that the issue is seen as too marginal to be included in the broad agenda for national change. With the first raid on a medical marijuana clinic during the Obama administration hitting this very week, reformers are anxiously hoping it is only the work of Bush holdovers and not a signal about the future.

Reformers may find themselves pleased with some Obama positions, but they will be less happy with others. The Obama administration wants to reduce inequities in the criminal justice system, but it also taking thoroughly conventional positions on other drug policy issues.

But let's let them speak for themselves. Here are the relevant sections of the Obama agenda:

Under Civil Rights:

  • End Racial Profiling: President Obama and Vice President Biden will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
  • Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support: President Obama and Vice President Biden will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
  • Eliminate Sentencing Disparities: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
  • Expand Use of Drug Courts: President Obama and Vice President Biden will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
  • Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.

Under Foreign Policy:

  • Afghanistan: Obama and Biden will refocus American resources on the greatest threat to our security -- the resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will increase our troop levels in Afghanistan, press our allies in NATO to do the same, and dedicate more resources to revitalize Afghanistan's economic development. Obama and Biden will demand the Afghan government do more, including cracking down on corruption and the illicit opium trade.

Under Rural Issues:

  • Combat Methamphetamine: Continue the fight to rid our communities of meth and offer support to help addicts heal.

Under Urban Issues:

  • Support Local Law Enforcement: President Obama and Vice President Biden are committed to fully funding the COPS program to put 50,000 police officers on the street and help address police brutality and accountability issues in local communities. Obama and Biden also support efforts to encourage young people to enter the law enforcement profession, so that our local police departments are not understaffed because of a dearth of qualified applicants.
  • Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Supports: America is facing an incarceration and post-incarceration crisis in urban communities. Obama and Biden will create a prison-to-work incentive program, modeled on the successful Welfare-to-Work Partnership, and work to reform correctional systems to break down barriers for ex-offenders to find employment.

Feature: Narcs Cheer -- House Economic Stimulus Bill Would Give Byrne Grant Program $3 Billion Over Three Years

As part of the $825 billion economic stimulus bill passed by the House last week, the Democratic Party leadership and the Obama administration included $3 billion for the controversial Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which funds multi-agency drug task forces across the country, and $1 billion for the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program, which will pay for thousands of additional police officers to hit the streets. Drug enforcement lobby groups are pleased, particularly about the Byrne funding, but others predict that any "stimulus" more Byrne grants might provide will be followed long-term drag on state budgets in ways going beyond the federal dollars.

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Sen. Harkin and Iowa law enforcement officials at 2004 press conference
In one of the few drug policy-related decisions made by the Bush administration that reformers could cheer, the Bush administration tried throughout its second term to reduce or eliminate funding for the Byrne grants. In so doing, it was heeding the concerns of conservative and taxpayer groups, who called the program "an ineffective and inefficient use of resources." But while the Bush administration tried to gut the program, Congress, still tied to the "tough on drugs" mentality, kept trying to restore funding, albeit at reduced levels.

The Byrne grant program, and especially its funding of the scandal-ridden multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task forces, also came in for harsh criticism from drug reform, civil rights and criminal justice groups. For these critics, the program was in dire need of reform because of incidents like the Tulia, Texas, scandal, where a Byrne-funded task force police officer managed to get 10% of the black population of the town locked up on bogus cocaine distribution charges. Scandals like Tulia showed the Byrne grant program "did more harm than good," the critics wrote in a 2006 letter demanding reform.

Of course, Tulia wasn't the only Byrne-related scandal. A 2002 report from the ACLU of Texas found 16 more scandals involving Byrne grant-funded task forces in Texas, including cases of witness tampering, falsifying of government records, fabricating evidence, false imprisonment, racial profiling, and sexual harassment. Byrne-related scandals have also occurred in other states, including the misuse of millions of dollars of grant money in Kentucky and Massachusetts, false convictions because of police perjury in Missouri, and making deals with drug offenders to drop or lower charges in exchange for cash or vehicles in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

In accord with its own budget-cutting imperatives, and in response to critics on the right and left, the Bush administration again tried to zero out the Byrne grant program in FY 2008. While the program was indeed cut from $520 million in 2007, Congress still funded it at $170 million for 2008. Now, it has folded the Byrne program and the Clinton-era COPS program into the emergency economic stimulus bill, leading to loud cheers from the law enforcement community.

"Safe communities are the foundation of a growing economy, and increased Byrne JAG funding will help state and local governments hire officers, add prosecutors and fund critical treatment and crime prevention programs," said National Criminal Justice Association President David Steingraber, executive director of the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance. "I applaud the stimulus bill proposed by the House Democrats and press Congress for its quick approval."

"This is very encouraging," said Bob Bushman, vice-president of the National Narcotics Officers Associations Coalition and a 35-year veteran of drug law enforcement in Minnesota. "We think it's a very good sign that this was included in the House bill. The House side was where we struggled in past years. Maybe now the House has listened to us and is taking our concerns more seriously," he said. "We built a broad coalition of law enforcement and drug treatment and prevention people."

Byrne money doesn't just fund the task forces, Bushman pointed out, although he conceded that's where much of the money has gone. "Byrne money goes to all 50 states, and most of them used it for the multi-jurisdictional task forces. Here in Minnesota, we split it between task forces and offender reentry programs and drug courts."

While a answer to just how much Byrne money has gone to the task forces remains buried deep in the bowels of the Justice Department -- part of the problem is that the 50 states are awarded block grants and then decide at the state level how to allocate the funds, and some states are better than others at reporting back to Justice -- observers put a low-ball figure of at least 25% going to fund them, and possibly much higher.

The task forces are needed, said Bowman. "While we are never going to arrest our way out of this, I've seen too much of the damage done by drug abuse, and we need all the help we can get," he said. "Not just for policing, but also for treatment and prevention and drug courts. We need all three pillars, and the Byrne program helps with all three."

If law enforcement was pleased, that wasn't the case with civil rights, taxpayer, and drug reform groups. They said they were disappointed in the restoration of funding under the auspices of the economic stimulus bill, and vowed to continue to try to either cut or reform the program.

"We're working on a letter to Congress about the Byrne grants right now," said Lawanda Johnson, communications director for the Justice Policy Institute, one of the organizations that had signed on to the 2006 DPA letter. "The Byrne grant program is not an effective use of funds for preserving public safety or stimulating the economy. The only way you will get an economic boost from this is if you own stock in Corrections Corporation of America," she laughed, grimly.

"With so many smart people working on the budget and the stimulus package, you would think they would understand that the states are looking to reduce their prison populations and change those policies that have jailed so many people," said Johnson. "To then turn around and have the federal government invest $4 billion in more police and more grants seems paradoxical. It's just going to jack up the spending for states and localities, and they are already struggling."

"We oppose the wasteful economic stimulus bill and we oppose the inclusion of the Byrne grants in it," said Leslie Paige, spokesperson for Citizens Against Government Waste, one of the conservative taxpayer groups that has opposed the grants for the past several years. "If there is going to be government spending, the least you can do is make sure the money is going to have a long term positive impact on the economy."

"This is disappointing, but not surprising," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This reverses Bush's cuts in the program and restores funding at even higher levels. At the same time Congress and the Obama administration are expressing great concern about racial disparities and over-incarceration, they keep trying to fund this program, which will only stimulate more arrests of more nonviolent drug offenders," Piper noted.

"The Democrats are framing this as helping in these tough economic times, but the people who will be arrested will end up in state prison, and the states will have to pay for that," Piper pointed out. "The states may well end up paying more in the long run. It's far from clear that this will stimulate the economy, but what is clear is that it will stimulate the breaking up of families and decreasing productivity and tax revenues, especially in communities already devastated by the impact of over-incarceration."

Killing funding outright is unlikely, said Piper. "I don't think there's any way we can stop this from being included because the support for it is strong and bipartisan," he said. "No one wants to go up against the police. Our real hope is that later in the year we can put some restrictions on the program, which is what we've been working on. Instead of trying to cut it, we can try to use it to encourage state and local law enforcement to change how they operate. They're so addicted to federal funding that they may do just about anything, such as documenting arrests or having performance measures."

Bushman and the rest of law enforcement aren't resting easy just yet. "The funding has to survive hearings and make it into the final appropriation," he noted. "This is not a done deal yet."

But it looks like Congress is well on the way to funding three more years of Byrne grants at $1 billion a year, the highest level of funding in years. And don't forget the 13,000 new police officers to be funded for the next three years by the COPS program. If Congress and the cops have their way, we can look forward to more drug busts, more prosecutions, more people sentenced to prison, and a greater burden on already deficit-ridden state budgets.

Medical Marijuana: DEA Hits California Dispensary in First Raid of Obama Administration -- New President Promised End to Raids

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided a medical marijuana dispensary in South Lake Tahoe, California, Thursday, marking the first dispensary raid during the brand new Obama administration. On the campaign trail, candidate Obama said repeatedly he would end such raids.

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DEA and SFPD dispensary raid, May 2008 (courtesy Bay Area Indymedia)
Neither the DEA nor the Obama administration had commented on the raid by Thursday evening. With the Obama administration mere days in office, many high-ranking Bush officials are still on the job, including acting DEA administrator Michele Leonhart, who has been responsible for numerous federal raids in California. The Obama administration has yet to name a new DEA head or permanent drug czar (head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy), and attorney general nominee Eric Holder is still undergoing congressional vetting.

"Whether or not this unconscionable raid on a medical marijuana provider is the fault of federal officials from the previous administration, President Obama has an opportunity to change this harmful and outdated policy," said Caren Woodson, director of government affairs for Americans for Safe Access, the leading national medical marijuana advocacy organization. "We are hopeful that these are the last remnants of the Bush regime and that President Obama will quickly develop a more compassionate policy toward our most vulnerable citizens."

During the Bush years, the DEA raided more than a hundred California dispensaries, sometimes merely seizing their medicine and cash, sometimes prosecuting their operators and sending them to federal prison. But the DEA has also gone after a medical marijuana organization in Washington state that supplied starter plants for its members, used a federal grand jury in Oregon to obtain patient records, and even threatened New Mexico officials planning to implement that state's medical marijuana distribution program.

In Thursday's raid, DEA agents hit the Holistic Solutions dispensary in South Lake Tahoe, seizing cash and medical marijuana. They made no arrests.

"President Obama must rise to the occasion by quickly correcting this problem and by keeping the promise he made to the voters of this country," said Woodson, citing Obama's repeated campaign pledges.

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