Congress

RSS Feed for this category

Press Release: House Committee to Renew Controversial Drug Enforcement Grant Program

[Courtesy of Drug Policy Alliance] For Immediate Release: June 17, 2008 Contact: Tony Newman, tel: (646) 335-5384 or Bill Piper, tel: (202) 669-6430 Wednesday, June 18th: House Judiciary Committee to Renew Controversial Drug Enforcement Grant Program Linked to Racial Disparities, Police Corruption and Civil Rights Abuses Twenty Civil Rights and Criminal Justice Reform Groups Urge Congress Not to Renew Byrne Grant Program without Reforming It Renewal of Program without Reform a Slap in the Face to Victims of Tulia and Hearne, TX Scandals—the Basis of Two Forthcoming Feature Films Last week the U.S. House Crime Subcommittee voted to renew the controversial but politically popular Byrne Justice Assistance grant program without debate or amendment. The House Judiciary Committee is set to take up the issue tomorrow, Wednesday June 18th. The Senate has already passed legislation renewing the program, which has been linked to racial disparities, police corruption and civil rights abuses. Twenty civil rights and criminal justice reform groups released a letter today urging the House Judiciary Committee not to renew the program without first reforming it. The groups include included the ACLU, the Brennan Center, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, National Black Police Association, the National Council of La Raza and the Drug Policy Alliance. “There are clear steps Congress can take to reform this program, from providing better oversight to requiring law enforcement agencies receiving federal money to document their traffic stops, arrests and searches by race and ethnicity,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “If Judiciary Committee Members renew this program without fixing it, they will be responsible for the racial disparities and civil rights abuses it breeds.” In a deeply troubling example of the consequences of the Byrne grant program, a magistrate judge found that a regional narcotics task force in Hearne, Texas routinely targeted African Americans as part of an effort to drive blacks out of the majority white town. For the past 15 years, the Byrne-funded task force annually raided the homes of African Americans and arrested and prosecuted innocent citizens. The county governments involved in the Hearne task force scandal eventually settled a civil suit, agreeing to pay financial damages to some of the victims of discrimination. The most notorious Bryne-funded scandal occurred in 1999 in Tulia, Texas where dozens of African-American residents (representing 15% of the black population) were arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to decades in prison, even though the only evidence against them was the uncorroborated testimony of one white undercover officer with a history of lying and racism. The undercover officer worked alone, and had no audiotapes, video surveillance, or eyewitnesses to corroborate his allegations. Suspicions arose after two of the defendants accused were able to produce firm evidence showing they were out of state or at work at the time of the alleged drug buys. Texas Governor Rick Perry eventually pardoned the Tulia defendants (after four years of imprisonment), but these kinds of scandals continue to plague the Byrne grant program. The program has been linked to numerous scandals and civil rights abuses across the country. “Every dollar Congress spends on the Byrne grant program is a dollar used to perpetuate racial disparities, police corruption and civil rights abuses,” said Piper. “Unless this program is reformed this year, members of Congress should consider cutting funding to it.” What: Markup of H.R. 3546, a bill to reauthorize the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, and other bills. When: Wednesday 06/18/2008 - 10:15 a.m. Where: 2141 Rayburn House Office Building Key Points of Interest: - Oscar-nominated actors Alfre Woodard and Michael O'Keefe star in the recently completed feature film American Violet. Based loosely on the Hearne scandal, the film follows the harrowing journey of a young mother fighting the devastating consequences of America's drug task force programs. The film is scheduled to begin festival screenings worldwide early this fall. - Lionsgate films is currently producing a feature film based on the Tulia, Texas scandal starring Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry. - Twenty civil rights and criminal justice reform groups have released a letter today urging the House Judiciary Committee to not renew the program without first reforming it. The groups included the ACLU, the Brennan Center, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, National African-American Drug Policy Coalition, National Black Police Association, the National Council of La Raza and the Drug Policy Alliance. - Four leading conservative groups have urged Congress to completely eliminate the Byrne grant program, because the program “has proved to be an ineffective and inefficient use of resources.” (American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens against Government Waste and National Taxpayers Union). - A 2002 report by the ACLU of Texas identified 17 scandals involving Byrne-funded narcotics task forces in Texas, including cases of falsifying government records, witness tampering, fabricating evidence, false imprisonment, stealing drugs from evidence lockers, selling drugs to children, large-scale racial profiling, sexual harassment and other abuses of official capacity. Recent scandals in other states include the misuse of millions of dollars in federal grant money in Kentucky and Massachusetts, false convictions based on police perjury in Missouri, and making deals with drug offenders to drop or lower their charges in exchange for money or vehicles in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin. - A 2001 study by the General Accounting Office found that the federal government fails to adequately monitor the grant program or hold grantees accountable.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Congress to vote on medical marijuana - take action now

Dear friends:

If you take only one action to help reform our nation's marijuana laws this year, it should be this one.

Please take one minute to ask your U.S. House member to vote for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would stop the federal government from arresting patients who are using medical marijuana legally under state law.

The full U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the amendment in just a few weeks — and there will probably be earlier committee action on medical marijuana legislation any day now — so it's crucial that your U.S. representative hear from constituents like you.

MPP's online action system makes it easy. Just fill in your name and address and we'll do the rest.

Take action here.

Twelve states have passed laws protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail. However, the federal government continues to ignore those state laws. For instance, just last month, DEA agents conducted a series of raids on California medical marijuana dispensaries that were operating legally under state law.

It's outrageous that the federal government is overturning the will of the people in these 12 states.

It's outrageous that the federal government is kicking in the doors and breaking the windows of medical marijuana dispensaries, stealing cash and marijuana from the proprietors of these establishments, and racing off in their black SUVs before TV news cameras arrive to document these governmental assaults.

I know you feel strongly that this is wrong. Would you please use your voice to deliver that message to Congress?

If we stand together, we will persuade Congress to change federal law.

Sincerely,
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 $3.0 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2008. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Latin America: US House Approves Mexico Anti-Drug Aid Bill, But Mexico Balks at Senate Human Rights Conditions

The US House of Representatives Tuesday approved a $1.6 billion, three-year anti-drug assistance plan aimed at helping Mexico and Central American countries fight the region's powerful drug trafficking organizations, but the package is now in doubt after the Mexican government voiced strong objections to provisions in the Senate version of the bill that tie the aid to human rights measures. The version of the bill in the Senate has yet to be approved.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ricardo-murillo.jpg
poster of assassinated human rights advocate Ricardo Murillo (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith)
The vote came amidst rising levels of prohibition-related violence in Mexico. Some 4,000 people -- including more than 450 police and soldiers -- have been killed in the drug war since President Felipe Calderón escalated it at the beginning of last year by sending some 25,000 troops and federal police into drug trafficker strongholds. The traffickers have taken time off from fighting among themselves to strike back at government forces, recently assassinating several top federal and municipal police commanders. Last week, traffickers in Culiacán ambushed and killed eight police in one day.

The bill, passed by the House 311-106, would begin to implement the Mérida Initiative, named after the Mexican city where US and Mexican officials sat down last year to hammer out an assistance package. Under that plan, the US funds would go for equipping and training security forces in Mexico and Central America and for improving justice systems in the region. Mexico would get $1.1 billion, while Central American and Caribbean countries would get roughly $400 million. Another $74 million would go to trying to slow the flow of illicit weapons from the US to Mexico.

But while Mexico had been eager to win the aid package, it is balking at the conditions in the Senate bill, which include human rights reviews, judicial reforms, and other issues. The conditions mark a return to "certification," where the US unilaterally determined whether nations where complying with US drug objectives, complained Mexican assistant attorney general for international affairs José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/riodocecover.gif
Ríodoce (newspaper) cover -- Sinaloa keeps bleeding. Why more (soldiers)?
"Why don't we tell the Americans to use those [funds] for their own interdiction forces or interception forces... and stop the flow of weapons," Santiago Vasconcelos said in a radio interview cited by the Dallas Morning News. "Rather than giving them to Mexico, they can be used by the Americans to reinforce their Customs service, their Border Patrol, and stop the arms trafficking to our country."

Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said last week that President Calderón is waiting to see the final version of the bill before making a decision. "The president will very carefully consider what is finally approved, and defending the best interests of Mexico, will make the correct decision, of that we can be sure," he said.

"I think one way or another, it's dead," political commentator Ricardo Alemán told the Morning News. "Mr. Vasconcelos is a very high-ranking police official and has support from the government," Alemán said, adding that Mexican pride is at stake. "Mexicans are very unyielding on this," he said. "First you reduce the amount, and then you put on conditions, so why don't you just keep your money."

A delegation of US senators flew last weekend to Monterrey, Mexico, to meet with Mexican officials in an effort to assuage their concerns, and there are signs they will seek to remove the offensive language from the Senate bill.

"We heard from everyone here the common message that this language has got to be changed," said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), one of 11 US legislators attending the two-day meeting. "Our friends in Mexico needed to vent and explain how this issue was not handled well," the senator added. "Anything that smacks of certification is a nonstarter."

Now it's time to see if the US Senate will sacrifice Mexican human rights on the altar of the drug war.

Latin America: Rising Death Toll in Mexico's Drug War Signals Imminent Victory, Attorney General Claims

As of last Friday, the death toll in the prohibition-related violence wracking Mexico this year had climbed to 1,378, up sharply from the 940 dead at this time last year, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora reported. Since then, that number has gone even higher, with killing continuing on a daily basis. Among the dead this week, seven police officers were killed in Culiacán when they raided a house belonging to the Sinaloa Cartel.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/malverde1.jpg
Shrine to San Malverde, patron saint of the narcos (and others), Culiacán -- plaque thanking God, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and San Malverde for keeping the roads cleans -- from ''the indigenous people from Angostura to Arizona'' (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith)
More than 4,150 people, including at least 450 police and soldiers, have been killed in Mexico's drug wars since President Felipe Calderón unleashed the army against drug traffickers at the beginning of 2007, Medina Mora said. Currently, some 30,000 troops are deployed in border cities, Culiacán and Acapulco, and other drug war hot spots.

This month, at least six high-ranking police officials, including the police chief in Ciudad Juárez and the acting commander of the Federal Preventive Police have been assassinated, presumably at the hands of cartel gunmen. Others have fled to the US.

But for Medina Mora, the rising tide of blood is a sign the government's offensive is working. Recent arrests and seizures have created a power vacuum, and different cartel factions are vying for turf, he argued. "Evidently when they are cornered and weakened, they have to respond with violence," Medina Mora said.

The US government apparently doesn't agree. The Congress is currently considering a three-year, $1.4 billion anti-drug assistance program for Mexico aimed at defeating the cartels. And neither, apparently, does Medina Mora's own government. It announced this week that it will deploy the military against the cartels for at least another two years.

Act Now to Protect Medical Cannabis Patients

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access] Dear ASA Supporter,

Last month, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) and a small bi-partisan coalition of Members of Congress introduced H.R. 5842, the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act. The legislation will help protect individuals who use or provide medical cannabis in accordance with their state law.

Visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/PatientProtectionAct to take action now!

If passed, this important legislation would, among other things, reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule II drug according the Controlled Substances Act and provide clearer protections for qualified patients, their caregivers, and safe-access sites authorized by state or local law. Take action now to protect patients and their caregivers!

Visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/PatientProtectionAct to write Congress now! Urge your U.S. Representative to support the Patient Protection Act!

Thanks you for supporting ASA and our efforts to secure safe access for medical cannabis patients. Please forward this message to friends, co-workers, and family members to encourage them to join you in this statewide movement to protect safe access!

Sincerely,

Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard
Field Coordinator
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. The only way we can continue to work on legislation like the Patient Protection Act is with your continued support. Become a member of ASA today!

HRC Alert: Getting Congress Hip to Hep in May

[Courtesy of Harm Reduction Coalition] 

Dear Supporter,

Take Action to Repeal the Federal Ban on Syringe Exchange, Increase Hepatitis Prevention

Momentum is building to end the 20 year ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs, but now we need heat. HRC has initiated a campaign designed to build the pressure in Washington DC and provide an opportunity for syringe exchange advocates to work for what we believe in. Keep in mind Franklin D. Roosevelt's response to a reform delegation, "Okay, you've convinced me.  Now go on out and bring pressure on me!"  Action comes from keeping the heat on.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

1. Organize a district-level meeting - Call up your US Representative's local office and arrange a meeting in May to talk to them about syringe exchange and the need to lift the federal ban. Download talking points, materials to leave behind, and ask them to take a stand and co-sign a 'Dear Colleague' letter from members of Congress to House leadership.

2. Send a Letter to the Editor - May 19 is World Hepatitis Awareness Day! Submit an op-ed or a letter to the editor this week to bring attention to the end for syringe exchange expansion through ending the federal ban. For addesses , please click here. Be sure to also send it to your Congressional representatives.

3. Demystify! Impress! Hold accountable! If you work at a syringe exchange program, consider inviting your US Congressperson &/or their staff to your site. Show 'em how much you do on how little funding.  Tell them what you would do with sufficient funding.

4. Let us know what you hear back - Email hrcwest@harmreduction.org and keep us in touch.

Feature: Battling Military Impunity in Mexico's Drug War

Lawmakers in the United States this week took the first steps toward approving a $1.6 billion dollar, three-year anti-drug assistance package for Mexico that is heavily weighted toward aid for the Mexican military. The Mexican army needs all the help it can get as, with 30,000 troops deployed against violent drug traffickers by President Felipe Calderón, it wages war against the so-called cartels, say supporters of the package.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/ricardo-murillo.jpg
poster of assassinated human rights advocate Ricardo Murillo
But even as the aid package, known as Plan Mérida after the Mexican city where US and Mexican officials hammered out details, was being crafted, the Mexican military was once again demonstrating the risks of using soldiers for law enforcement. On the evening of March 26, near the town of Santiago de los Caballeros in the municipality of Badiraguato in the mountains of the state of Sinaloa, a five-man military patrol opened fire on a white Hummer driven by a local man back from the US. When the smoke cleared, four people in the vehicle were dead, two were wounded -- and there was no sign of any weapons.

It was the second time in less than a year that soldiers in Badiraguato had opened fire, killing multiple innocent civilians. Last June, three school teachers and two of their young children were killed when soldiers at a checkpoint perforated their vehicle with bullets. That case went away after the military paid their families $1,600 each.

Seeing yet another unjustified killing by the military was enough for Mercedes Murillo, head of the independent human rights organization the Frente Cívico Sinaloense (Sinaloa Civic Front). The veteran activist saw her brother assassinated in September after discussing the June killings on his radio program, but that didn't stop her from filing a lawsuit designed to end what is in effect impunity for soldiers who commit human rights offenses against civilians.

Under Mexican law -- the result of a post-revolutionary political settlement designed to keep the military out of politics -- members of the military do not face trial in the civilian courts, but in special military courts. This martial fuero -- a privileged judicial instance whenever the military are on trial -- results in soldiers charged with human rights abuses being judged by members of their own institution, and all too frequently, being absolved of any wrongdoing no matter what the facts are.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/mercedes-murillo.jpg
Mercedes Murillo with legal assistant
Now, Murillo and her legal team, acting on behalf of the widow of the Hummer driver, have filed suit in Sinaloa district court in Mazatlán, challenging the fuero system. She doesn't expect immediate success, she said.

"This is the first case presented in Mexico against the actions the army has taken," said Murillo. "We know that when we present this in Mazatlán, the judges will give us nothing. Then we must take it to the Supreme Court of Mexico, and there might be people there who will study what we are presenting."

But Murillo isn't counting on the Mexican courts; her vision goes beyond that. "I don't think we can win here, but even if the Supreme Court says the military can do what it wants, that will lay the groundwork for going to the Inter-American Court. Military impunity violates international treaties that Mexico has signed," she argued.

The Organization of American States' Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission of Human Rights are autonomous institutions charged by the hemispheric organization with interpreting and applying the American Treaty on Human Rights and ensuring governments' compliance with it. Mexico is a signatory to that treaty.

"Using the military for drug enforcement in Mexico is a serious problem," agreed Ana Paula Hernández of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountains in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. In addition to being one of the most impoverished areas of the country, the mountains of Guerrero have long been home to poppy and marijuana farmers, as well as the occasional leftist guerrilla band over the decades. The military has been deployed there for years.

But while most attention these days is focused on the military's deployment to fight the cartels in major cities, Hernández cited the military's more traditional drug war role: manual illicit crop eradication. "It's an almost impossible and useless task since illicit crop cultivation is an issue of survival in the mountain region, as in other parts of the country," she said. "In these regions, farmers have two options -- either they grow illicit crops or they migrate, so of course they will continue to find ways to grow illicit crops. It will never end unless the social and structural reasons for it are addressed."

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/mercedes-murillo-office.jpg
Frente Cívico Sinaloense (Sinaloa Civic Front) office, hippie shop next-door
But instead, successive Mexican governments have sent in the military to root out the poppy and pot fields. At least, that is their stated purpose, but Hernández isn't sure they're serious. "This is the excuse for deploying the military in many rural and indigenous regions, but in many cases it's more about a counterinsurgency strategy than a crop eradication strategy," she said.

The military presence in such regions is "an intimidating and threatening" one, said Hernández. "They set up camp wherever they like, often destroying licit crops and harvests in the process, stealing the water from the community, entering people's homes to take their food, stopping people on the roads to interrogate them, and so on. Worse yet, the military has become one of the main perpetrators of human rights abuses in the region, committing violations as serious as sexual rape for example," Hernández said. "This is something that is very common but that is rarely denounced."

Tlachinollan has documented some 80 cases of human rights violations carried out by members of the military in the region in recent years, including the rape of two women, Valentina Rosendo Cantú and Inés Fernández, by soldiers in 2002, said Hernández. But because of the military court system, nobody has been punished.

"Justice has not been carried out in a single case," she said. "It is very difficult, almost impossible, to obtain justice in cases where the military is involved. They remain untouchable to a certain degree and without a doubt, absolutely unaccountable to society for their actions."

As for Cantú and Fernández, they have given up on Mexican justice and are now seeking redress before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Their case is pending after a hearing last October.

While Mexican citizens and activists struggle to rein in the military, some US experts wonder whether involving soldiers in drug law enforcement does any good anyway.
"We don't think it's a problem that can be solved militarily," said Joy Olson, executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). "The use of the military in the drug war is not a new thing -- they continually bring in the military because the police are either too weak or too corrupt to deal with the traffickers -- but the question is whether it can deal with the challenge at hand, and we don't think so," she said.

But even if the military is unable to stop drug production and trafficking, it will continue to be the backstop for hard-pressed Mexican politicians unless real reforms take place, Olson said. "We need to be talking about significant police reform. Until that happens, the military will be used over and over again without solving the problem."

Murillo agreed that police reforms were necessary, and vowed never to give up the fight for justice. "They killed my brother because he criticized the army," she said, "but we are so used to the soldiers now that we are not scared. I have nothing to lose. My sons and daughters are married, my husband is 82. If they kill me, I don't care. That's the only way to work. You can't be afraid."

Latin America: Prohibition-Related Violence Surges in Mexico

More than 100 people, including at least 20 police officers, died in prohibition-related violence in Mexico in the past week as drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- shot it out with police, soldiers, and each other in cities across the country. Among those killed were Federal Preventive Police (PFP) Commander Édgar Millán, assassinated on his doorstep in Mexico City, and Ciudad Juárez Municipal Police Chief Juan Antonio Román, gunned down in front of his home Saturday in a hail of bullets.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/malverde1-small.jpg
At least three other high-ranking PFP commanders have been gunned down in Mexico City in the past few days, presumably by gunmen of the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. Another PFP commander, Arturo Cabrera, narrowly escaped the assassin's bullet Tuesday in Monterrey. He was attacked by gunmen as he left the state police academy, but managed to retreat back to the base, where he managed to hold off his attackers with his own gun until being rescued by a police SWAT team.

Guzmán's own son, Édgar Guzmán, was himself gunned down in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, on Saturday, presumably by gunmen of the rival Juárez Cartel, which has been battling Guzman's group for control over the drug traffic there. That was only the latest flare-up in two weeks of violence there that have seen bloody attacks on PFP and local police, massive multi-vehicle convoys of armed narcos marauding through the streets, and an infusion of 3,000 more soldiers into the state.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón deployed the Mexican military a year and half ago in a bid to break the power of the cartels. But with some 30,000 soldiers now deployed in the fight, the violence not only continues, but seems to be escalating. Around 3,000 people have been killed since Calderón's offensive began, more than 1,100 of them so far this year, according to Mexican media reports.

The US Congress is now debating approval of a $1.6 billion, three-year anti-drug aid package for Mexico, heavily tilted toward military assistance. While the violence would appear to strengthen the case for such an aid program, it is unclear whether an infusion of military training and technology will have a positive impact on Mexico's drug war.

[Ed: In February 2003, a Mexican congressman from Sinaloa, Gregorio Urías Germán, after calling for drug legalization, attended our Latin America conference, "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century" ("Saliendo de las sombras: Terminando con la prohibición de las drogas en el Siglo XXI" en español). Urías argued that "If we can't even discuss the alternatives, if we can't even admit the drug war is a failure, then we will never solve the problem." He said that existing forums, such as the UN and the Organization of American States, are not fruitful places for discussion, "because only the repressive policies of the United States are discussed at these forums." Sinaloa continues to suffer from the violence caused by drug prohibition, as discussed in this newsbrief five years later. In different but similar ways, inner-city neighborhoods throughout the US suffer from violence and disorder caused by prohibition as well.]

Medical Marijuana: House Judiciary Chair Calls Out DEA on California Raids

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter to the DEA questioning its priorities and asking for an accounting of costs incurred in the dozens of raids it has launched against California medical marijuana patients and providers in the last two years. The letter could be the prelude to hearings on the topic, if medical marijuana defenders, including a number of elected officials, have their way.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/conyers-perry-fund.jpg
John Conyers, at DRCNet event in 2005
In the April 29 letter to DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, Conyers wrote that he received numerous complaints from Californians, including elected officials, about "DEA enforcement tactics" regarding raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. The Californians were urging him to hold hearings, the chairman told Leonhart, but first, "I want to give you the opportunity to respond to these complaints."

Noting an increase in "paramilitary-style enforcement raids against individuals qualified to use medical marijuana under state law, their caregivers, and the dispensing collectives established to provide a safe place to access medical cannabis," as well as the sending of letters threatening property confiscation or even arrest to hundreds of landlords who rent to dispensaries, Conyers had a handful of pointed questions:

  • Is the use of asset forfeiture, which has typically been reserved for organized crime, appropriate in these cases? Has the DEA considered the economic impact of forfeiture in a stalled economy?
  • "Given the increasing levels of trafficking and violence associated with international drug cartels across Mexico, South America, and elsewhere," is this really where the DEA wants to spend its resources?
  • Has the DEA considered the impact of its tactics on the ability of California state and local entities to collect lawful taxes on an economic activity legal under state law?
  • Given increasing support for medical marijuana from medical associations and in the scientific literature, and the acting director's discretion in prioritizing DEA activities, "Please explain what role, if any, scientific data plays in your decision-making process to conduct raids on individuals authorized to use or supply cannabis under state law?"

Conyers also appears to call for an inter-governmental commission composed of lawmakers, law enforcers, and people affected by medical marijuana policy "to review policy and provide recommendations that aim to bring harmony to federal and state laws." Such a commission could be part of a process that eventually brings a relaxation of federal medical marijuana policy.

"Finally," Conyers concluded, "attached with this letter is a list of approximately 60 raids the DEA conducted between June 2005 and November 2007. Please provide an accounting of the costs, in dollars and resources, used to conduct law enforcement raids on the attached list of individuals. Please include information about: whether any arrests were made in the course of these raids, and, if so, how many people were arrested; under what circumstances was a warrant issued and for what content; whether any criminal or other charges have been brought by the DOJ; what, if any, content was seized or destroyed; and finally, the current status of these cases."

Also attached to the letter were statements condemning the DEA raids from the Los Angeles City Council, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and a resolution from the California legislature.

Ordinarily, one would not expect the DEA to be quick to reply to such inquiries, even from someone like Chairman Conyers. But with the threat of possible hearings hanging over its head, perhaps the agency will find the courtesy of a reply the lesser of two evils.

House Judiciary Chair Questions DEA Tactics

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access]   Dear ASA Supporter,

ASA’s ongoing campaign to hold the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) accountable for its continued efforts to undermine state medical marijuana laws is working. We are pleased to announce that US House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) has sent a letter to DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart challenging the DEA's actions.

ASA staff together with grassroots activists helped make it possible for Chairman Conyers to issue this letter. Please donate now to support our important work in Washington, D.C.!

As a follow-up to a public statement he made in December, Chairman Conyers’ letter questions DEA directly about its heightened raid activity across California and its intimidation of property owners owners with threats of prosecution and asset forfeiture because they rent to medical cannabis dispensaries. Chairman Conyers is the highest ranking elected official to question the DEA’s tactics since medical cannabis raids in California escalated dramatically in 2007. This letter is an important and necessary step towards Congressional hearings by the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the actions of the DEA.

Over the past several months, ASA and advocates all over the country have lobbied Chairman Conyers to convene hearings. Dozens of legal, tax-paying dispensaries have been shut down or evicted by their landlords, and many more face the same fate if Congress does not intervene. ASA Director of Government Affairs Caren Woodson has been lobbying the offices of Chairman Conyers and Subcommittee Chairman Scott about this issue for months, and her persistence is paying off!

Caren’s work with the House Judiciary Committee was bolstered by a statewide effort to get California’s elected officials to call for an end to the harmful tactics of the DEA. ASA and its allies were successful in garnering strong letters of support from several elected officials, urging Chairman Conyers to hold hearings. Among those who spoke up were Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby, Los Angeles City Councilmember Dennis Zine, and the mayors of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and West Hollywood.

I urge you to make a special commitment to support the kind of persistent, strategic, and effective organizing that ASA demonstrated in moving Chairman Conyers forward on this issue by making a monthly pledge of support or a one time contribution to ASA.

Please visit www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/Donate and make a contribution today!


Steph Sherer
Executive Director
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. Please visit www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/ConyersLetter to read the letter from Chairman Conyers.

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School

StopTheDrugWar Video Archive