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DEA in New Spokane Medical Marijuana Dispensary Raid

In the latest round of the federal assault on medical marijuana in Washington state, the Cannabis Defense Coalition reports that the DEA conducted a Wednesday afternoon raid on Medical Herb Providers, one of the few dispensaries left in the city after a flurry of federal raids last month. It's not clear whether any other dispensaries are being targeted.

Spokane River
According to the CDC, a Medical Herb Provider manager reported that one employee was arrested.

The raids today and last month come as the state legislature and Gov. Chris Gregoire are struggling to come up with legislation to provide some sense of what is and is not allowed under the state's medical marijuana law. It currently does not explicitly allow for dispensaries, but that hasn't stopped dozens, perhaps more than a hundred, from opening.

Late last month, at least two Spokane area dispensaries were raided. Those raids came three weeks after the US Attorney for Eastern Washington, Michael Ormsby, warned the then 40 dispensaries in the area that they should shut down or face federal action.

The letter from Ormsby and a similar one from his counterpart in Western Washington, were crucial in persuading Gov. Gregoire to veto the portions of a medical marijuana patient registry and dispensary bill. They warned that state employees who licensed or registered medical marijuana businesses could be subject to federal prosecution.

Now, as Gregoire and the legislature tussle over what to do about medical marijuana, the feds are reminding everyone that they haven't gone anywhere.

Spokane, WA
United States

28 Raids in 24 Hours!? Tell Attorney General Holder to Stop Federal Raids of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (Action Alert)

Tell Attorney General Holder:
Stop federal raids
of medical marijuana dispensaries

» Sign the petition

Friends,

28 raids in 24 hours.That's the unfortunate reality for medical marijuana patients in Montana and California.

Federal agents shutdown 26 dispensaries across Montana and 2 in the medical marijuana sanctuary city of West Hollywood, California this month in their latest attack on patients and legitimate businesses.

The DEA isn't even supposed to be conducting these raids in the first place. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo ordering an end to federal raids of medical marijuana dispensaries. Yet, despite his memo, federal agents have continued these operations sporadically for years, without regard for patients', states' or business' rights.

Attorney General Eric Holder clearly doesn't have control of his own cavalry. This assault on patients rights has to stop now.

Sign our letter telling Attorney General Holder to enforce his memo and prohibit federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Click here to sign the letter: http://action.firedoglake.com/page/s/fedraids

But is Holder being dishonest and hypocritical? Or does he simply lack strong leadership among US Attorneys General?

A memo issued on February 1st by US Attorney Melinda Haag (who, ironically, represents Northern California) directly contradicts Holder’s edict. She declares that ANYONE engaging in the buying or selling of marijuana, regardless of their protection under state laws, will be punished by the federal government.

That doesn’t just mean dispensaries and the patients who rely on them, but goes as far as to include landlords, financiers and property owners as well. It’s a full-court press designed to intimidate supporters of reform and ostracize patients seeking their prescribed medications.

This attitude puts lives in jeopardy and undermines our democratic institutions by foiling state attempts to provide solutions for their own people. We need to put an end to the federal harassment of medical marijuana patients now.

Tell Attorney General Holder to enforce his own memo banning federal raids of medical marijuana dispensaries and take a stand for patients rights.

Click here to add your name: http://action.firedoglake.com/page/s/fedraids

This kind of official hypocrisy at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens is a disgrace to the notion of basic human rights everywhere. Thank you for standing up for a patients’ basic rights to treatment.

Thanks for all you do.

Brian Sonenstein
Just Say Now.com

 

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Federally-Approved Medical Marijuana Patient Stumps Through Montana

Location: 
MT
United States
Irvin Rosenfeld, as one of only a few surviving federal medical marijuana patients was in Montana, stumping for what he calls a 'Wonderdrug.' Every month, the federal government sends Rosenfeld his medicine: 360 rolled marijuana cigarettes. He suffers from a rare disorder that produces tumors at the end of long bones. "I haven't developed a new tumor or had an existing one grow since I was 21, which was 37 years ago, and I attribute that to my medicine: medical cannabis," he said.
Publication/Source: 
KULR (MT)
URL: 
http://www.kulr8.com/news/local/Federal-Marijuana-Patient-Stumps-through-Montana-118211324.html

Montana Senate Nixes Medical Marijuana Repeal Amidst DEA Raids

A move to repeal Montana's voter-approved 2004 medical marijuana law died in a state Senate committee Monday on a tie vote. The measure had passed the House, but members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said what was needed was regulation, not repeal.

Neither Montana's reactionaries nor the DEA can make medical marijuana go away. (Image courtesy Coaster420)
After the vote, committee Chair Terry Murphy (D-Cardwell) appointed a three-member subcommittee to work on a bill to tighten regulations over marijuana. But another legislative committee has already crafted regulatory legislation that is working its way through the legislature.

Even as senators were debating the measure, the DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies assisted by local law enforcement conducted raids against at least 10 medical marijuana dispensaries or grow operations across the state.

One business hit was the Montana Cannabis greenhouse near Helena, where the company grows more than 1,600 plants to supply its four dispensaries across the state. DEA and FBI wearing respirators conducted the raid while sheriff's deputies and Helena Police stood guard. The company's four dispensaries were all hit, too.

"They came in guns drawn, got us down on the ground, and in cuffs as fast as they could," Montana Cannabis employee Brett Thompson told the Associated Press. No arrests were made, except for one person wanted on an outstanding warrant.

A search warrant for a raid in Bozeman listed 13 items to be seized in an investigation of "drug trafficking," including cash, plants, products, computers, and data storage devices. But the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant, which would provide some basis for alleging criminal offenses had taken place, has not been released.

The Obama Justice Department in October 2009 sent a policy memo to all US Attorneys directing them to not use their resources against medical marijuana patients and providers complying with state law in states where it is legal. But in Montana, as well as other medical marijuana states including Michigan, Nevada, and Washington, dispensaries have opened without being explicitly protected by state law. The Montana law allows caregivers to provide marijuana to patients and receive compensation, but does mention dispensaries. The fix is in the legislature, as was the case in Colorado.

Helena, MT
United States

Bolivia President Evo Morales Attacks Drug Reports

Location: 
Bolivia
Bolivian president Evo Morales has accused the United States and the United Nations of conspiring to defame his government in two drug reports. He said criticism over Bolivia's handling of the war on drugs were part of a strategy to falsely link his government to drug trafficking. Morales said the US was trying to force him to invite American anti-narcotics agents back into Bolivia.
Publication/Source: 
BBC News (UK)
URL: 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12707641

ACLU: DEA’s Politics Are Keeping Cannabis-Based Medicines Off Shelves

After a decade of waging a hard-fought battle with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which repeatedly denied his application for the production of medical marijuana, Dr. Lyle E. Craker, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, said he would call it quits, resigning his fight in bitter defeat. The ACLU released its final brief on Craker's case, which calls on the DEA to grant research permits for the production of medical cannabis. They flatly state that cannabis medicines have not yet cleared the Food and Drug Administration because of the DEA's pernicious politics and tight monopoly on the granting of production licenses.
Publication/Source: 
The Raw Story (DC)
URL: 
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/08/aclu-deas-politics-are-keeping-cannabis-based-medicines-off-shelves/

Morales: DEA Not Coming Back to Bolivia‎

Location: 
Bolivia
The arrest of Bolivia's top counternarcotics cop, Rene Sanabria, has not changed President Morales' stance on allowing the DEA into the country. Morales insisted he has no intention of inviting the DEA back. He alleged "interests of a geopolitical nature" were behind the Sanabria case. "They are using police to try to implicate the government," he said. Vice minister of social defense, Felipe Caceres, suggested that Sanabria's arrest was the DEA's revenge for being expelled. The president also hinted at U.S. hypocrisy, recalling reports that American agents ran guns to Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s with the proceeds of cocaine sales in the United States.
Publication/Source: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
URL: 
http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/arrest-of-top-bolivian-859877.html

Minnesota Head Shop Owner Says Fake Marijuana Ban Won't Work

Location: 
Duluth, MN
United States
Jim Carlson, the owner of a head shop, says a new federal ban on the sale of five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana won't make much difference - he'll just stock brands that use other, still-legal substances. Carlson said that with about 210 similar chemicals available, the manufacturers will try to keep one step ahead of the government. "Unfortunately he is correct," said Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman in Washington, who confirmed Tuesday that many suppliers are offering retailers products with new chemicals. "There are many of these substances and we chose five common ones because we don't have the resources to study all of them."
Publication/Source: 
Minnesota Public Radio (MN)
URL: 
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/03/01/fake-pot/

DEA Bans Synthetic Marijuana

By the time you read these words, the possession and sale of synthetic cannabinoids will be a federal crime. The DEA announced late Monday afternoon that its emergency rules banning the fake weed would go into effect Tuesday, March 1.

No legal highs for you, silly Americans! (Image via Wikimedia)
In recent years, synthetic cannabinoids sprayed on herbal matter and marketed as incense under names including Spice and K2 have become widely available. They are sold at head shops, convenience stores, truck stops, and via the Internet. The effects of such concoctions mimic those of marijuana.

The ban was originally scheduled to go into effect on Christmas Eve, but was delayed by legal challenges from retailers. The ban lists five chemicals commonly used in the compounds.

There has been "a rapid and significant increase in abuse of these substances in the United States," the DEA notice said. The agency is acting to avoid "an imminent hazard to public safety," it said.

But just as synthetic cannabinoids mimic the effects of herbal marijuana, the adverse effects reported by a subset of users mimic those of herbal marijuana. Those adverse effects include anxiety, paranoia, rapid heartbeat, and nausea -- all admittedly unpleasant, but not life threatening. No fake weed overdose deaths have been reported.

States have not been waiting for the feds to act against this legal high. At least 18 of them have criminalized synthetic cannabinoids, including Utah, Arizona, and Nebraska in the last week.

Washington, DC
United States

The 2012 Federal Drug Budget: More of the Same [FEATURE]

The Obama administration released its a href="http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/policy/12budget/fy12Highlight.pdf">proposed 2012 National Drug Control Budget Monday and, despite President Obama's statement just over two weeks ago that the federal government needed to "shift resources" to have a smarter, more effective federal drug policy emphasizing public health approaches, there is little sign of any resource shifting.

Drug War Autopilot and Co-Autopilot: ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske with President Obama
Although budget documents said the administration seeks "a balanced approach" of prevention, treatment, and domestic and international law enforcement, law enforcement continues to get the lion's share of federal drug dollars. Of the more than $26 billion allocated for federal drug control efforts, nearly 60% would go to "supply reduction" (read: domestic and international drug law enforcement and military interdiction) and only 40% would go to treatment and prevention.

And in a time when the clamor for deficit reductions and budget cuts grows louder by the day, the Obama administration drug budget actually increases by 1.3% over 2010. That means it could be in for a rough ride when congressional appropriations committees get their hands on it, although no Republican leaders have yet commented on it.

[Editor's Note: All year-to-year comparisons are to Fiscal Year 2010 because Congress still hasn't passed a FY 2011 budget.]

On the other hand, at least the administration is being honest. Since 2004, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), which produces the drug budget, under drug czar John Walters had used accounting legerdemain to substantially understate the real costs of federal drug control by not including the drug component in the work of a number of different federal agencies. Using the understated figures, this year's drug budget would have appeared to have been only $15.3 billion instead of the more accurate $26.2 billion, with a false appearance of equality between supply-side and demand-side funding.

[Editor's Note: Bush-era drug czar John Walters stated directly, in response to a question I asked at an event, that they omitted budget items that included drug control but were not 100% about drug control -- claiming that made the numbers "more accurate," but not explaining how that made sense in any way. -DB]

"At least they finally got around to fixing the accounting problem," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance."It took them five years after Congress told them to fix it, but at least they are showing the true cost of things, like incarceration."

But neither Piper nor representatives of other drug reform groups had much else nice to say about the budget. "It's very much like last year's budget, with most money going to ineffective supply side programs and not enough going to treatment," Piper said. "You have the president and the drug czar talking about treating drug abuse as a public health issue just weeks ago, but their budget continues to treat it as a law enforcement and military issue."

"I don't understand how the president can tell us with a straight face that he wants to treat drugs as a health issue but then turn around just a few weeks later and put out a budget that continues to emphasize punishment and interdiction," said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a former narcotics officer in Baltimore. "The president needs to put his money where his mouth is. Right now it looks like he's simply all talk and no game."

"I see this similarly to Obama's approach on needle exchange and crack sentencing -- the president supported those reforms verbally, but did nothing else to help them at first, even when he had the opportunity," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, publisher of this newsletter. "But when Congress was ready to take them on, the administration provided enough support to get them through. Obama has also supported the idea of shifting the drug budget's priorities, but again has done nothing whatsoever to make it happen. Maybe what he wants is for Congress to do the heavy lifting on this as well. If so, our movement's task is to propose a politically viable new version of the budget that does change the priorities, to build support for it in Congress, and then look for the administration to get on board."

"We're definitely going to be focused on cutting funding to the drug war during the congressional appropriations process," said Piper. "We're already meeting with both Republicans and Democrats to increase support for cutting funding to the Byrne grants, the media campaign, and other ineffective drug war programs. I don't think there are any sacred cows now, and our goal is to get the drug war on the chopping block along with everything else."

While there are individual programs that saw cuts in both the treatment and prevention side and the law enforcement side, only in the realm of international anti-drug assistance was there an overall decrease in spending. Although the budget funds foreign assistance at $2.1 billion, that is $457 million less than the 2010 budget, a decrease of 17%. The decrease results from the winding down of Plan Colombia funding, a shift from expensive technologies for Mexico to more programmatic aid, and the re-jiggering of some of the Afghanistan anti-drug spending to be counted as "rule of law" spending.

Proposed spending on interdiction is set at $3.9 billion, an increase of $243 million over 2010 levels. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security account for the bulk of that spending, which includes an increase of $210 million for border security and port of entry facilitation on the US-Mexico border.

But international anti-drug aid and interdiction spending are dwarfed by domestic drug law enforcement, which would gobble up $9.5 billion under the Obama drug budget, an increase of $315 million over 2010 levels, or 3.4%. Unsurprisingly, the single largest domestic law enforcement expenditure is $3.46 billion to incarcerate federal drug war prisoners.

[Editor's Note: In the budget, the authors refer to high federal corrections costs because of the high number of drug war prisoners -- they make up well over half the more than 200,000 federal prisoners -- as "a consequence of drug abuse," when those costs are more than anything a consequence of public policy decisions made over decades.]

The Office of Justice Grants program, which includes the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants used to fund anti-drug multi-jurisdiction law enforcement task forces, would be slashed substantially, from $3.52 billion in 2010 to $2.96 billion in 2012, but on the other hand, the Justice Department 2012 budget contains $600 million to hire and retain 4,500 new police officers.

"It's encouraging that they cut funding for the Byrne grants," said Piper, "but they're increasing funding for the COPS program. The money is still going to law enforcement, but cutting those grants is a step in the right direction."

There are a few law enforcement side losers in addition to the Byrne grants. The DEA budget is down slightly, from $2.05 billion in 2010 to $2.01 billion in 2012, but that reflects supplemental spending for the southwest border that was included in 2010. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, which has evolved into a prime example of pork, saw its funding slashed to $200 million, down from $239 million.

And while overall treatment and prevention funding was up slightly, by 1% and 8% respectively, those increases are relatively slight, and there are some losers there, too. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Prevention grant program would decline from $565 million in 2010 to $550 million in 2012, Drug Free Communities funding would decline from $95 million to $89 million, and substance abuse treatment Medicaid grants to the states would decline from $3.78 billion to $3.57 billion.

On the plus side, spending for the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students grant program would increase from $177 million to $267 million, Medicare treatment spending would increase by about 10% to $1.463 billion, Substance Abuse Treatment Block Grant funding would increase fractionally, and reentry funding under the Second Chance Act would increase from $30 million to $50 million.

The much criticized ONDCP youth media campaign would remain at $45 million, and the mostly praised drug court program would also remain unchanged, at $57 million.

All in all, despite slight changes in emphasis, the 2012 federal drug control budget is much of a muchness with previous drug budgets, despite the Obama administration's lip service about changing priorities and embracing the public health paradigm.

"Everyone wants to cut federal spending somehow," said Piper. "It seems that cutting the drug war would be an easy way to do that without cutting funds to the poor, to education, and other desirable social programs. Obama has said how sad he was to have to cut programs he likes, but he probably could have saved those programs by cutting funding for the drug war."

Washington, DC
United States

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