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Opposition to Medical Marijuana is a Conspiracy to Prevent Broader Legalization

An important fact to understand about the medical marijuana debate is that the federal government knows perfectly well that marijuana is an effective medicine:

*They've been providing it for decades to a select group of seriously ill patients, and continue to do so.
*They've approved a synthetic drug with the same active ingredient (THC).
*They commissioned a huge study in 1999, which explicitly said it works.
*They've been blocking research, which makes no sense if they think the results will favor them.

So the debate over medical marijuana isn't even about whether it has medical properties. It is about something else entirely, stated perfectly by ONDCP's Tom Riley just the other day:
"…a lot of the people who are behind this aren't really interested in sick people who need medicine, they're interested in marijuana legalization and they're playing on the suffering of genuinely sick people to get it." [Reuters]
As silly as it is, this argument explains everything there is to know about why the government actually opposes medical marijuana. Though countless mainstream medical, legal,  and religious organizations support medical marijuana, the federal government remains fixated on drug policy reformers and our role in defending the rights of patients.

The simple truth is that they are afraid that medical marijuana could lead to full-blown legalization of marijuana for recreational use. And it's not an irrational concern. If you're struggling to prevent accurate information about marijuana's effects from reaching the scientific community and the public, the last thing you want is a huge user population that can speak openly about their experiences with the drug.

Ironically, it is ONDCP's obsession with legalization that has turned medical marijuana into a great controversy, not ours. Similarly, it is ONDCP that exploits patients for political purposes, not us. Opposition to medical marijuana is not championed by doctors or scientists. It is funded and carried out by political operatives who want to keep marijuana illegal for everyone. That's the real medical marijuana conspiracy.

Location: 
United States

Taking it to the Drug Warriors--Is It Time for Direct Action?

You know, a guy gets tired fighting for decades for the right to do something which should be our right anyway. Yeah, I know the litany: We've got to play the game...if you don't like the law, change it...the political process is slow...we can't be impatient...we have to educate politicians and cultivate law enforcement....blah blah blah. Well, in the face of the no-progress Hinchey-Rohrabacher vote and the continuing defiance of the will of California voters by the DEA, not to mention all the other drug war horrors, I'm prepared to once again make inciteful (if not insightful) calls for direct action against these downpressors. 1. Let's take the DEA's war on medical marijuana patients and providers to the DEA. Let's shut 'em down in California. Blockade their offices, and not for symbolic civil disobedience purposes, but for the actual purpose of disrupting their activities. 2. Let's really take it to the DEA. These black-suited, paramilitary-style goons presumably have homes in the area. I'd like to see protestors on the sidewalk in front of their houses. Ooh, but you say it's not polite or uncouth to do that sort of thing! Well, I frankly find DEA goons kicking down doors and arresting harmless people who didn't do anything to anybody pretty impolite and uncouth. Maybe they'll enjoy explaining to their neighbors (two out of three of whom voted for Prop 215) how they earn a living. These thugs need to pay a price for what they do, and I personally don't care if it offends the sensibilities of some of our more delicate members. And I don't buy their "I'm only following orders" excuse, either. It didn't fly at Nuremburg, and it shouldn't fly now. It's time for public shaming and shunning. 3. And maybe we should be focusing on a mass march aimed at national DEA headquarters one of these months. Again, the purpose would be practical--not symbolic--to shut the monster down. This is an agency that needs to be abolished, and until we can accomplish that, the least we can do it make it impossible for it to function properly. 3. More broadly, let's attack the snitch system that underpins the drug war. Last week, we did a newsbrief on the couple in Philadelphia indicted for posting flyers outing a snitch. They copied information from the Who's A Rat? web site, which is protected by the First Amendment. The folks in Philadelphia are charged with intimidating witnesses--by making public information about what they are doing--and I hope they fight that case all the way. Snitches have no right to have their exploits go unsung. In solidarity with the Philadelphia folks, and everyone who has suffered from drug war snitchery, I propose that DRCNet enter into a collaboration with Who's a Rat? by posting the information about one undercover officer (they list more than 400) or one snitch (they list over 4000) online each week. Personally, I would rather go after the narcs than the snitches, most of whom are victims themselves. ("You're gonna go to prison for 30 years and get raped by hardened cons if you don't give up the names..."). Snitches may be victims of circumstance (and a weak values system), but narcs do this horrid work for a living, either because they believe in or they like it. I want to see their names and mugs plastered across the internet. I don't suppose my boss will agree with me on this one, although I'd like to hear why not. 5. Police on a drug raid in Belfast this week were met by a rock-throwing mob. Mindful of the incitement statutes, I have no comment. Whaddya think, folks? I'm really, really tired of waiting for lamebrain politicians to protect me from these thugs. I guess I'm going to have to do it myself. With your help. More "responsible" members of our movement generally shy away from tactics like these. Let them be responsible. I want to fight back.
Location: 
United States

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.

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