Here's the Drug Czar's blog
gloating over the DEA's raid of the Local Patient's Cooperative in Hayward, CA:
The DEA took down another illegal marijuana dispensary in California. The owners were selling pot for profit under the guise of "medicinal use." Police seized pot cookies and expensive cars. More here (with video).
Notice the careful language used here. We're told that this was an "illegal marijuana dispensary" that used medical use as a "guise" to make money. As dispensary raids have increased in recent months, DEA has claimed each time that they're targeting clubs that engage in recreational sales. Similarly, ONDCP's blog post clearly implies that LPC was uniquely criminal in its conduct.
In other words, DEA and now ONDCP are tacitly condoning dispensaries that only sell to patients!
In both word and deed they are suggesting that dispensaries which follow California State law will generally not be targeted, despite the fact that federal law draws no such distinction. Obviously, this informal policy is driven not by compassion for the sick, but rather an acceptance of the political reality that the public won't tolerate continued assaults on patient access itself.
Unfortunately, DEA's willful ignorance of the nuances of legitimate medical marijuana use continues to undermine the value of this apparent compromise. Here's a quote from the SFGate.com
article linked by ONDCP, which ironically undermines their whole point:
In the Hayward case, an FBI agent said in a sworn affidavit that officers staked out the Foothill Boulevard location five times in October and November and saw healthy-looking men entering and leaving the building each time, carrying bags the officers believed contained marijuana.
The only other evidence the agent cited to show that the dispensary was selling drugs to non-medical patients was a newspaper article saying police had found 10 times as much marijuana on the premises as the city's rules allowed.
That LPC's customers appeared "healthy looking" is a red herring. Most of the people in any medical setting appear healthy and California allows caretakers to obtain medicine on behalf of sick relatives. Furthermore, the apparent "health" of certain patients could as easily be attributed to their access to effective medicine. Hayward area patients with limited mobility might not be looking so good today.
LPC's excessive supply appears to be the only legitimate issue here and even that falls far short of justifying the conclusion that extra-medical sales were being conducted. Friends at Americans for Safe Access
have explained to me that recent DEA activity has resulted more from poorly drafted or non-existent local regulations than from gratuitous improprieties on the part of dispensary owners.
With that in mind, consider what patient and activist Angel Raich
had to say in an email:
"I can tell you that Local Patients Group was a really good co-op,
they served a high number of patients, they gave back to the patient
community, and the City of Hayward. This was the first medical cannabis co-op as you come into the SF Bay Area and many patients from the Central Valley and surrounding areas would travel for hours to get their medicine there and this raid has created a hardship for hundreds of patients. They will be missed."
Thank you Angel. If LPC's substantial supply reflects the needs of patients in the region, rather than profiteering by the club's operators, then the effect of the raid is to dramatically undermine legitimate patient access. Morally, there's a big difference between exceeding supply limits for the purpose of supplying patients, as opposed to engaging in recreational sales surreptitiously. Yet LPC's conduct was presumed to indicate the later and not the former.
In sum, federal authorities are admitting a distinction between medical and recreational sales, which shows that their position has been weakened. But they're failing to draw this distinction accurately and their newfound enthusiasm for busting "illegal" dispensaries has led to a recent increase in raids.
Federal charges mean that dispensary operators will have no opportunity to defend their adherence to state and local laws anyway, so the DEA's public justification for the raid becomes irrelevant after the fact. Meanwhile, reduced patient access shifts the burden to the remaining dispensaries, increasing their chances of running afoul of local ordinances and becoming the next target.
Ironically, Congressional debate over the Hinchey Amendment
, which would solve this problem entirely, still focuses on whether marijuana is medicine; a fact that the DEA has already tacitly admitted.