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photos from LA raid aftermath on LAist web site

Photos from the aftermath of the raid on LA's Cannabis Patients Group coop, including the civil disobedience action, can be found online here.
Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Photo Essay: Hollywood Medical Marijuana DEA Raid

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
LAist (CA)
URL: 
http://laist.com/2007/07/27/medical_marijuana_dea_raids.php

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.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/kcal9.jpg
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.

DEA raids 10 pot shops

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-medpot26jul26,0,777205.story?coll=la-home-center

Meanwhile...

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.
Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
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"

Location: 
United States

Sober North Dakotans Hope to Legalize Hemp

Location: 
Osnabrock, ND
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/21/us/21hemp.html?em&ex=1185163200&en=187b22d1791d9eda&ei=5087%0A

Medical Marijuana: DEA, ONDCP Take Flak on Dispensary Raids, Research Obstacles in House Committee Hearing

A House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security hearing on July 12 saw representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) grilled by Democratic congressmen, including committee chair Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), on the administration's attacks on medical marijuana in states where it is legal and on the administration's stalling the request of University of Massachusetts researcher to be able to grow medical marijuana for research purposes.

(The same hearing also saw pain patient advocates get a chance to tell the committee about the DEA's prosecutions of pain doctors -- see feature story here -- and written testimony from an ONDCP official claiming a leading medical marijuana advocate no longer supported medical marijuana -- see newsbrief here).

Testifying before the committee on medical marijuana issues were the DEA's Joseph Rannizzisi, ONDCP chief scientist Dr. David Murray, and Valerie Corral, cofounder of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), a California dispensary raided by the DEA in 2002.

Murray was in typical form, telling the committee "it is not the medical community who identifies a need out there for a smoked weed to alleviate pain and suffering." Instead, Murray said, "this is an issue that is pushed overwhelmingly by legalization advocates for marijuana who fund initiatives and referenda in various states, trying to push through what we think is a troubling development." In his written testimony to the committee, Murray called medical marijuana advocates "modern-day snake oil proponents."

Murray went on to charge that marijuana has not been found to be effective as a medicine, that there is better stuff available, and that the weed could even be "harmful for those for whom it was intended to be a healing device."

That prompted Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to interrupt Murray's testimony to ask if he thought marijuana were as dangerous as nicotine, which in turn prompted Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) to denounce Nadler for talking out of turn. After a brief procedural scuffle, Murray adeptly deflected Nadler's pointed question.

WAMM's Corral was up next, telling the committee about how WAMM began as a small collective garden to serve its members -- people who benefited from marijuana as medicine -- and that those people were not lying. "It is not that we wish to break the law, for surely we do not," she said. "We've made every effort to change it. What we ask here today is that you stop the aggressive antics of the DEA against sick and dying people, because that is what we are. Stop the raids. Allow research to continue. Allow the research to continue that the DEA is blocking in the [University of Massachusetts researcher Lyle] Craker case, for instance, because only you can do that."

Committee chair Bobby Scott turned up the heat during later questioning of the witnesses. "I'd like to ask, I guess, Dr. Murray, in terms of policy, what the public policy imperative it is to deny terminally ill patients the right to marijuana, if they believe that it's going to help them, they believe that it reduces pain, terminally ill patients?"

Unsatisified with Murray's response, which basically reprised his earlier testimony, Scott continued to dog him: "Well, if they want it and they're terminally ill, what scientific studies have you had to show the effectiveness of marijuana? What scientific studies have you had? Do you have a list that you can supply to the committee?"

After going around with an evasive Murray, Scott settled for a promise from the ONDCP functionary to respond with written testimony.

Nor was the chairman pleased with Murray's non-response to his question about the problems UMass professor Lyle Craker was having getting his request to grow marijuana for research purposes approved. Rep. Nadler also jumped on Murray about obstacles facing medical marijuana researchers.

"Marijuana is the only controlled substance currently for which the federal government maintains a monopoly on the supply for use by scientists conducting research, even though federal law requires competition in the production of research-grade, schedule-one substances, such as research-grade heroin, LSD, ecstasy and cocaine," Nadler said. "Can you please tell us marijuana, as a comparatively harmless drug, compared to these other substances, is the only controlled substance for which the federal government maintains a monopoly on the supply made available to researchers? In other words, why is it different than heroin, ecstasy, LSD, et cetera?"

Murray had no substantive response to Nadler's question, a posture the congressman qualified as "evasive," and DEA's Rannazzisi fared little better. "They've refused the supply for basically every researcher. They've basically cut off medical research with respect to marijuana," Nadler pushed.

"I don't believe that's the case," Ranazzisi responded. "If you look at my testimony..."

"I won't debate that with you because it's clearly the case," an annoyed Nadler retorted.

Nadler went on to pepper Ranazzisi about when the DEA is going to get around to moving on the Craker application, without getting a straight answer.

With Democrats in control of the Congress, some of the right questions are finally being asked of the drug war bureaucrats. We may not like the answers we are hearing, but at least the questions are being asked and the drug warriors are on notice.

Feature: Pain Doctor and Patient Advocates Get a Congressional Hearing… Finally

For the first time in more than a decade, the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) heavy-handed intrusion into the field of medicine came under congressional scrutiny last week. The broad-ranging review of the DEA's regulation of medicine came at a July 12 hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security chaired by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).

While the hearing also included testimony and members' questions about the DEA's role in pursuing medical marijuana dispensaries and blocking marijuana research (see this newsbrief), as well as its apparent underestimation of the amount of pseudoephedrine needed for legitimate commercial and medicinal uses, testimony by Siobhan Reynolds of the pain patients and doctors advocacy group Pain Relief Network and attorney and chronic pain advocate John Flannery put the issue of the federal prosecutions of doctors who prescribe high-dose opioid pain medications front and center.

The hearings gained an added sense of timeliness the following day, when nationally-known pain management physician Dr. William Hurwitz was sentenced to five years in prison on drug trafficking charges. Hurwitz had originally been sentenced to 25 years in prison, but his original verdict was overturned and he was convicted of 16 drug trafficking counts in an April retrial. While pain patient advocates and Hurwitz supporters believe he should never have been convicted at all, they viewed the much shorter sentence -- which with time-served could see Hurwitz free in 17 months -- as a victory of sorts.

Still, Hurwitz remains behind bars for what is at best laxness in dealing with some patients who lied to him and resold drugs he prescribed them for chronic pain. As such, he is emblematic of the growing number of physicians who have been persecuted and prosecuted by the Justice Department and the DEA, as well as state-level prosecutors who have taken their lead from the feds.

"The subcommittee has received numerous complaints about the DEA's regulation of medicine," said Rep. Scott as he opened the hearing. Turning to prescription drug abuse, Scott noted that, "When it was first introduced, OxyContin abuse became rampant in such areas as Appalachia and rural New England. DEA responded by adopting the OxyContin action plan, which involved prosecuting medical doctors who prescribed high doses of painkillers. The DEA claims that this policy was not intended to impact the availability of legitimate drugs necessary to treat patients; however, the evidence suggests that the DEA's decision to prosecute doctors has created a chilling effect within the medical community, so that some doctors are unwilling to prescribe pain medication in sufficiently high doses to treat their patients. The result is that many Americans live with chronic untreated pain."

The first witness was DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Diversion Control Joseph Rannazzisi, who immediately took issue with the notion that the DEA was trying to regulate medicine. "The title of this hearing, 'DEA's Regulation of Medicine,' is inaccurate," he complained. "DEA does not regulate medicine or the practice of medicine. DEA does investigate violations of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of the source of the violation, be it a Colombian cocaine dealer, a marijuana trafficker or a doctor who abuses the authority to dispense controlled substances."

Saying that DEA considered the diversion of prescription drugs one of its most significant challenges, Rannazzissi said "small numbers of unscrupulous doctors" were part of the problem. Still, he said, the agency wasn't targeting doctors. "Generally speaking, in any given year, DEA arrests less than 0.01 percent of the 750,000 doctors registered with DEA for a criminal violation. More often than not, those violations are egregious in nature and are acts clearly outside the usual course of accepted medical standards."

That brought a sharp retort from the Pain Relief Network's Reynolds, whose life-partner, Sean Greenwood was a former Hurwitz patient who died last year as the family crisscrossed the country searching for a doctor who would treat his chronic pain, during her subsequent testimony. "The DEA contends that they only prosecute 0.01 percent of registrants," she said. "However, that's a misleading figure, because a very small number of registrants prescribe opioid medicines and an even smaller number would prescribe in doses that would relieve serious pain."

"So the actual number of doctors who are arrested is far greater, when you look at the correct denominator, which this leads me to my next point, which I think is really the most important point," Reynolds continued. "This is a government agency that plays fast and loose with the facts, uses incredibly inflammatory rhetoric, talks about crime and addiction and dependence and puts them all together and maybe has no cognizance of the fact that this all ultimately falls on and stigmatizes very, very sick people. But that is in fact what happens."

When it came his turn to testify, Flannery, a former prosecutor and congressional staffer and author of "Pain in America -- And How the Government Makes It Worse," took issue with Rannazzisi's taking issue with the hearing's title. "The title of the hearing, which is the regulation of medicine by DEA is, unfortunately, an apt one," Flannery retorted. "DEA has been regulating medicine, and for them to come here and say that they don't know it means that they either are consciously doing it or recklessly doing it. And I can't believe they're doing it recklessly, because we see the quality of people who work at the department. And that means there's an ideological purpose in regulating medicine. They do not approve of certain medical practices. And, if that is it, they should bring it to the Congress and tell us why, with statistics and explanations, because then it should be a formal policy rather than the secret one that it is presently."

Flannery accused DEA and the Justice Department of "bait and switch" tactics. The legal standard for criminal prosecution of doctors is that they have to be acting outside the course of professional medicine with the intent to push drugs, not treat patients, Flannery noted. "They create these standards on a case-by-case basis," Flannery said. "And how do they do that? They bring a doctor into the courtroom that they pay, who travels around the country, and the standard is created on a case-by-case basis by the DEA doctor."

Determinations of what constitutes criminal conduct by doctors -- as opposed to simple malpractice -- are better left to state medical boards, Flannery said under sympathetic questioning from Rep. Scott.

Ranking minority member Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) carried water for the Bush administration, asking whether marijuana should be legalized, worrying about teen prescription drug overdoses and "pharma parties," and asking about marijuana growing in national forests, while Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) provided inadvertent comic relief. Gohmert wandered into the hearing room, announced that voters in his district didn't support marijuana legalization, then launched into a bizarre tale about a bag of sterilized marijuana seeds from which some seedlings sprouted he had seen in a court case once before retreating back into silence.

While last week's hearing marked the first oversight of the DEA's regulation of medicine in more than a decade, it wasn't enough, Reynolds told the Chronicle. "Although I submitted written testimony, we were limited to five minutes, so I spent my time basically explaining how offended I was at the farcical nature of the DEA and ONDCP testimony, denying the possibility of a chilling effect on physicians."

"This is a step on a slow journey toward enlightenment," Flannery told the Chronicle. "In Jerrold Nadler and Bobby Scott, you can't find two better lawyers who are sensitive to these issues, but the Congress is immersed in lots of other business, and it takes a lot to move members from their preconceived notions of what the drug war is about. Very few understand this is about the government invading medicine -- not prosecuting drug dealers. We will have to turn around an ocean liner in order to get action."

But hearings like last week's are a first step. "I've asked for more hearings, but I'm not getting the impression that's the next step," said Reynolds, who was invited to testify by Rep. Nadler. "What I've been told is that we need to educate the Congress. We've been doing that, but there seem to be a lot of closed ears on this issue. Still, more and more, there is some awareness that this is a terrible problem."

Reynolds added that she and others are working with the committee to seek legislation that would ease the DEA pressure on pain doctors. "Both Nadler and Bobby Scott showed real concern and came up afterward and asked what they can do."

Nadler spokesman Shin Inouye told the Chronicle Thursday that Nadler is looking into the matter. "He's very interested in the issue, but I haven't heard anything specific about new legislation yet," Inouye said.

There is a long way to go before America's estimated 40 to 70 million chronic pain patients and the doctors who seek to treat them can live without the fear of the DEA, but last week's hearing was a good -- if insufficient -- beginning, and lays the groundwork for further action.

The written testimony of all witnesses at the hearing is available online here.

CA NORML Release: DEA Announces Federal Medical MJ Indictments in So. Cal - Business as Usual in DEAland?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 17, 2007 The DEA announced several indictments of medical cannabis operators in Southern California today. There was less to them than meets the eye, however, as they involved outstanding cases against dispensaries that had been previously raided or warned. Indicted were operators of: (1) Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay, which had been raided last March; (2) Compassionate Caregivers, once the largest chain of dispensaries in California, closed by federal action in 2005-6 (one former CC employee was also arrested for having opened a new facility); (3) Healing Nations Collective in Corona, which had been fighting efforts by local authorities to close it, and (in a raid yesterday) (4) Nature's Medicinal in Bakersfield, a popular, high-traffic facility that was raided in May. None of the arrestees had been targets of the LA DEA's recent landlord warning letter, nor were any forfeiture actions announced against landlords of the arrestees. One twist was that the charges named a doctor, who allegedly wrote recommendations for the Morro Bay store's patrons. Significantly, the doctor was said to have received a finders' fee for referrals, which would exempt him from the federal Conant injunction that protects doctors so long as they don't help patients procure cannabis illegally. Although the Morro Bay dispensary was alleged to have sold cannabis to minors, sources close to the case say all the minors were either over 18 or accompanied by parents. Although the Bakersfield dispensary was charged with making millions of dollars, DEA did not mention that it was paying payroll and sales taxes like other legal businesses. Today's announcements were obviously timed to "send a message" along with the landlord warning letters. That does not mean that the government is about to send forfeiture notices to all the landlords. To do so would invite more backlash than this bankrupt administration can afford. The DEA is picking off a few ripe targets in a desperate attempt to slow down the medical marijuana stampede. Every day brings more scientific evidence for the medical efficacy of cannabis. When the dust settles, the government will be forced to concede Americans' right to medicine. In the next week or two, Congress is expected to vote on the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment to halt federal funding for medical marijuana raids. TELL YOUR CONGRESS MEMBER TO END THE FEDERAL WAR ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=9998376 - D. Gieringer, Cal NORML
Location: 
CA
United States

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