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Obama DOJ Ratchets Up War Against Medical Marijuana [FEATURE]

Signaling an intensification of federal government targeting of medical marijuana providers, the four US Attorneys in California last Friday announced a campaign of "coordinated enforcement actions targeting the illegal operations of the commercial marijuana industry in California." The announcement came at a Sacramento news conference.

The federal prosecutors said their enforcement actions would rely on pursuing civil forfeiture lawsuits against properties where dispensaries are located, sending threatening letters to dispensary landlords, and criminal prosecutions. The prosecutors said recent dispensary busts in Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego were part of the enforcement campaign.

The feds said that enforcement actions would vary across regions of the state and that they would be working with federal law enforcement and local officials to crack down. The Department of Justice in Washington made clear that this was not an instance of prosecutors going off the reservation.

"The actions taken today in California by our US Attorneys and their law enforcement partners are consistent with the Department's commitment to enforcing existing federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), in all states," said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. "The department has maintained that we will not focus our investigative and prosecutorial resources on individual patients with serious illnesses like cancer or their immediate caregivers. However, US Attorneys continue to have the authority to prosecute significant violations of the CSA, and related federal laws."

Medical marijuana supporters were quick to charge the Obama administration with waging a renewed war on them and reneging on its promises to not interfere in states where medical marijuana is legal.

"Aggressive tactics like these are a completely inappropriate use of prosecutorial discretion by the Obama administration," said Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "President Obama must answer for his contradictory policy on medical marijuana." On the campaign trail and in the White House, President Obama pledged that he was "not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws."

"It is unconscionable that the federal government would override local and state laws to enforce its will over the will of the people," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. "States must be allowed to enforce their own laws without harmful interference from the Obama administration."

"The Obama administration's latest moves strongly suggest that their medical marijuana policies are now being driven by overzealous prosecutors and the anti-marijuana ideologues who dominated policymaking in past administrations," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Barack Obama is betraying promises made when he ran for president and turning his back on the sensible policies announced during his first year in office. Instead of encouraging state and local authorities to regulate medical marijuana distribution in the interests of public safety and health, his administration seems determined to recriminalize as much as possible. It all adds up to bad policy, bad politics and bad faith."

Large medical marijuana dispensary operations are not health care providers but criminal organizations hiding behind patients, the prosecutors claimed Friday.

"Large commercial operations cloak their moneymaking activities in the guise of helping sick people when in fact they are helping themselves," said Benjamin Wagner, US Attorney for the Eastern District of California. "Our interest is in enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously sick people and those who are caring for them. We are making these announcements together today so that the message is absolutely clear that commercial marijuana operations are illegal under federal law, and that we will enforce federal law."

"The California marijuana industry is not about providing medicine to the sick," claimed Laura Duffy, US Attorney for the Southern District of California. "It's a pervasive for-profit industry that violates federal law. In addition to damaging our environment, this industry is creating significant negative consequences, in California and throughout the nation. As the number one marijuana producing state in the country, California is exporting not just marijuana but all the serious repercussions that come with it, including significant public safety issues and perhaps irreparable harm to our youth."

The prosecutors said they had sent out "dozens" of threat letters to dispensary and grow-op landlords in the past few days. In the Southern and Eastern districts, they targeted building owners, while in the Central district they sent letters to landlords "in selected cities where officials have requested federal assistance." In the Northern district, they targeted their threat letters to landlords of dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools or parks, but warned "we will almost certainly be taking action against others."

The prosecutors also said they had already filed seven civil forfeiture complaints against properties where landlords allow dispensaries to operate. One complaint alleged that an Orange County strip mall had eight dispensaries and that recalcitrant city officials had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to shut them down.

One letter targeted the landlord for the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM) in Fairfax, which has been operating with the support of the city and without complaint since 1996. In a letter to MAMM's landlord, the US Attorney for Northern California warned that the dispensary was operating within a "prohibited distance of a park." The letter threatened MAMM's landlord with up to 40 years in federal prison, seizure of his property, and forfeiture of all rental proceeds for the last 15 years if he doesn't evict MAMM.

Similar letters have gone out to other dispensary landlords warning them of pending federal action because their tenants are too close to schools. The dispensaries are operating in accord with California law, which treats them like liquor stores and bars them from operating within 600 feet of a school, but federal law imposes additional penalties for the distribution of controlled substances with 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, and public parks.

"This is nuts," said Greg Anton, attorney for the Marin Alliance and its director, Lynnette Shaw. "There's a dispensary near where I live that sells guns, narcotics, alcohol and tobacco and it's full of children.  It's called Walmart, and it's safe. So is Lynnette's place. She's proven that over 15 years."

"This is an outrageous abuse of law enforcement resources for the DOJ to use property forfeiture to enforce meddlesome, nanny-state regulations," said California NORML director Dale Gieringer. "The federal government has no business dictating local zoning decisions. No one has any problems with the Marin Alliance except the bureaucrats in Washington."

The DEA is also along for the ride. "The DEA and our partners are committed to attacking large-scale drug trafficking organizations, including those that attempt to use state or local law to shield their illicit activities from federal law enforcement and prosecution," said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. "Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that its distribution and sale is a serious crime. It also provides a significant source of revenue for violent gangs and drug organizations. The DEA will not look the other way while these criminal organizations conduct their illicit schemes under the false pretense of legitimate business."

And so is the IRS. "IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to work with our law enforcement partners and lend its financial expertise to this effort," said IRS chief of criminal enforcement Victor Song. "We will continue to use the federal asset forfeiture laws to take the profits from criminal enterprises."

Friday's announcement of a federal crackdown is just the latest in a series of moves against medical marijuana providers by the Obama administration. The Department of the Treasury has been busily scaring banks into shutting down the accounts of providers in California and Colorado, the Department of Justice is aggressively prosecuting dispensary operators in Montana and elsewhere, and the IRS is attempting to drive dispensaries out of business by denying them standard business expense deductions -- Oakland's Harborside Health center was just this week hit with a $2.5 million tax bill after the IRS disallowed its standard business deductions.

Meanwhile, the administration has continued to block federal approval of medical marijuana, with the DEA recently rejecting a nine-year-old petition to reschedule pot, saying it would only accept large-scale, controlled FDA trials. But at the same time, the DEA has acted to block such trials by refusing to allow a private production facility to supply marijuana for medical research. The only existing source for marijuana for research purposes is the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, but it recently blocked a request for marijuana to study its effects on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, saying it has no intention of allowing studies that would develop marijuana for medicinal purposes.

"How can the Obama administration say that it's fine for sick people to use this proven medicine, and yet tell them they can't have any legal place to get it?" asked Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Medical marijuana isn't going away. Over 70% of Americans support making medical marijuana legal, and 16 states allow it."

But not the federal government. Not under George Bush and, it is increasingly clear, not under Barack Obama. With Obama facing no challengers in the Democratic primary and with reform-friendly Republicans unlikely to win the Republican nomination, it appears that medical marijuana is going to be condemned to wander through the political wilderness for the foreseeable future.

The question now becomes whether any sort of response can stem the federal onslaught, and just what that response might be. Or does the dispensary scene just wither away and die?

California Hemp Bill Awaits Governor's Signature

A bill that would allow farmers in four California counties to grow industrial hemp has passed the state legislature and now sits on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D) awaiting his signature. The bill, Senate Bill 676, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, passed the Senate earlier this year, then passed the Assembly last week.

Hemp field at sunrise. Will California farmers be able to enjoy its fruits? (
Sponsored by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the bill would allow farmers in those counties to grow industrial hemp for the legal sale of hemp seed, oil, and fiber to manufacturers. The bill specifies that hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, and farmers must submit their crops to testing before it goes to market.

The eight-year pilot program would end in 2020, but not before the California attorney general would issue a report on law enforcement impact and the Hemp Industries Association would issue a report on its economic impact.

"California is one step closer to building a successful hemp industry in the Central Valley," said Leno after the Assembly approved the bill on a vote of 49-22 on September 7. The Senate gave its final approval to Assembly amendments the following day.

While hemp bills have passed the state legislature previously, SB 676 is the furthest reaching yet and managed to pick up support from businesses, farming groups, local government, labor, even law enforcement. Supporters ranged from the California Grange and the California Certified Organic Growers to the United Food and Commercial Workers to the Kern County Board of Supervisors and the Kern and King county sheriffs, both of whom wrote letters of support in favor of the bill.

"Hemp is a versatile cash and rotation crop with steadily rising sales as an organic food and body care ingredient. Today, more than 30 industrialized nations grow industrial hemp and export it to the US. Hemp is the only crop that is illegal to grow yet legal for Americans to import," explained Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp and executive director of the Hemp Industries Association.

The US hemp market is now estimated to be about $420 million in annual retail sales, but manufacturers must turn to foreign suppliers because the DEA, which refuses to differentiate between industrial hemp and recreational and medical marijuana, bars its cultivation here.

Sacramento, CA
United States

DEA Issues Emergency Ban on "Bath Salts" Drugs

The DEA announced September 7 that it was using its emergency scheduling powers to impose a ban on three synthetic stimulants widely marketed as "bath salts." The three drugs are mephedrone, methylone, and 3,4 methyleneoxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

Ivory Wave and other products containing "bath salts" will soon be banned. (image via Wikimedia)
But the ban on bath salts drugs comes as a rising chorus has begun to criticize the prohibitionist approach to new drugs, with European researchers noting that new synthetics have been emerging at a rate of one a week in the past 18 months.

The ban does not go into effect for at least 30 days, after which DEA will publish in the Federal Register a Final Order to ban them for a year, with a possible six-month extension.

The emergency ban makes it illegal to possess or sell the three substances while the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) conduct further studies to determine whether the substances should be permanently controlled. In the meantime, the emergency order will designate the bath salts drugs as Schedule I controlled substances.

"This imminent action by the DEA demonstrates that there is no tolerance for those who manufacture, distribute, or sell these drugs anywhere in the country, and that those who do will be shut down, arrested, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. "DEA has made it clear we will not hesitate to use our emergency scheduling authority to control these dangerous chemicals that pose a significant and growing threat to our nation."

The bath salts drugs appeared in the US in the last couple of years and are sold under names such as "Ivory Wave," "Vanilla Sky" and "Bliss," but according to reports from poison control centers and hospital emergency rooms, their effects can sometimes be anything but blissful. Reported effects from users seeking help or being transported for medical attention include disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes.

According to the DEA, 33 states have already moved to ban or otherwise regulate the bath salts drugs, and the agency cited "an increasing number of reports" of problems related to the substances as a reason it moved to ban them.

The DEA declared a similar temporary emergency ban on synthetic cannabinoids earlier this year, but a report from the British newspaper The Guardian on Saturday suggested such an approach to new synthetic chemicals may be a losing battle. That article noted that the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Addiction had reported the emergence of 40 new synthetic drugs in the first five months of this year. Many of those reported new drugs were derivatives of methcathinone, as are the three drugs banned Wednesday by the DEA.

Given the plethora of new substances, researchers and analysts told The Guardian that attempting to ban new drugs is not a feasible solution. Instead, they should be studied, regulated, and controlled.According to Paulo Deluca, co-principal investigator at the European Union-funded Psychonaut Research Project, which studies new drug trends, it's becoming hard to even keep up. "It's also becoming very difficult to know exactly how many new compounds there are, because you have all these brand names and when you test the batch they are different from the following one," he said.

Attempts to ban one new substance after another are like "a cat chasing its tail," said Steve Rolles of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. "Each time they ban one, another emerges. It seems to show a blindness to the basic market dynamic, effectively creating a void for backstreet chemists to create another product."

Rolles added that new drugs should be studied and regulated like conventional drugs. "It's just ridiculous, irrational really. If you're not looking at the regulatory options, then you're not following an evidence-based approach -- you are following a political mandate."

But enforcing prohibition is the mandate that the DEA has -- or rather, attempting to enforce it. And as unlikely as they are to succeed at that goal, they are are equally unlikely to ever willingly embrace evidence-based policies, the new ban shows.

Washington, DC
United States

Medical Marijuana Group Appeals DEA Rescheduling Decision

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group, last Thursday filed an appeal challenging the Obama administration's recent decision to keep marijuana classified as a dangerous drug with no medicinal value. The appeal comes just two weeks after the DEA belatedly denied a 2002 petition seeking to have marijuana removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Schedule I is reserved for drugs that have "a high potential for abuse," "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States" and "a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision."

In refusing to down-schedule marijuana, the DEA ignored the 1988 ruling of its own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, who found, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." Since then, medical marijuana has been approved in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and the scientific literature on the medical efficacy of marijuana has become enormous.

ASA said it will argue in a forthcoming appeal brief that the federal government decision was not supported by the evidence and that it erred in refusing to down-schedule marijuana.

"By ignoring the wealth of scientific evidence that clearly shows the therapeutic value of marijuana, the Obama Administration is playing politics at the expense of sick and dying Americans," said ASA chief counsel Joe Elford. "For the first time in more than 15 years we will be able to present evidence in court to challenge the government's flawed position on medical marijuana."

ASA and other medical marijuana advocates viewed the DEA refusal to reschedule marijuana less as a defeat than as an opportunity to get the matter before the courts. The last time, the federal bench dealt with the medical efficacy of marijuana was in 1994, and the case for therapeutic cannabis has only grown stronger since then.

Washington, DC
United States

DEA Denies Marijuana Rescheduling Petition

The DEA last Friday denied a petition asking the federal government to reschedule marijuana out of Schedule l of the Controlled Substances Act. The petition had languished within the caverns of federal bureaucracies for nine years, but the agency finally moved to deny it two months after medical marijuana advocates filed a lawsuit to compel the government to act.

Marijuana has no accepted medical use, the DEA claims. (image via
The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis had sought to reclassify marijuana on a lesser schedule, arguing that current science does not allow for it to be classified as a Schedule I drug. Such substances must have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the US, and a lack of accepted safety for use.

While marijuana has abuse potential, a DEA judge in 1989 cited it as one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man, and it is currently being used as a legal medicine under the laws of 15 states and the District of Columbia. But DEA officials overruled their own judge and left marijuana in Schedule I.

DEA attitudes toward marijuana [Ed: and toward science] have not changed much in 20 years -- in Friday's Federal Register, the agency wrote: "Marijuana continues to meet the criteria for schedule I control under the CSA because marijuana has a high potential for abuse, marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and marijuana lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision."

Given that marijuana is being used medically in states across the country, it is worth a bit deeper look  into the DEA's rationale for saying it has no currently accepted medical use. "According to established case law, marijuana has no 'currently accepted medical use' because the drug’s chemistry is not known and reproducible; there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available," the DEA claimed.

"Although this superficially looks like a defeat for the medical marijuana community, it simply maintains the status quo" said Joe Elford, chief counsel for coalition member Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and lead counsel in the recent lawsuit. "More importantly, however, we have foiled the  government's strategy of delay and we can now go head-to-head on the merits, that marijuana really does have therapeutic value."

Americans for Safe Access said it plans to appeal the denial of the petition to the DC Circuit Court as soon as possible. The group noted that the denial was dated June 30, one day after the Justice Department issued a memo threatening to prosecute commercial medical marijuana operations and even state and local officials who attempt to implement state medical marijuana laws.

"The federal government is making no bones about its aggressive policy to undermine medical marijuana," said ASA executive director Steph Sherer, "And we're prepared to take the Obama administration to court over it."

The group also noted that the petition denial comes in the same week as the 21st annual symposium of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, which is sponsored in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Elsohly Laboratories, the federal government's only licensed source of research-grade marijuana, and an array of pharmaceutical companies interested in asking the government to reschedule organic THC so they can sell a generic version of Marinol, which is now produced synthetically.

"The government cannot have it both ways; marijuana is either a medicine or it's not," continued Sherer. "If the government is going to sponsor a conference on medical marijuana, it should show the same deference to the millions of patients across America who simply want access to it."

Washington, DC
United States

Groups Sue Feds Over Marijuana Rescheduling Petition Delay

A coalition of medical marijuana and drug reform groups filed suit in federal court in Washington, DC, Monday in a bid to force the government to act on a rescheduling petition that has languished at the DEA for nearly nine years. The lawsuit asks that the government respond to the petition within 60 days.

The DEA has had more than enough time to issue a ruling on a marijuana rescheduling petition. (Image via
The petition argues that marijuana has accepted medical use and should thus be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia currently allow for the medicinal use of marijuana, and an ever-increasing mountain of evidence has shown marijuana to be effective in treating a number of diseases and conditions.

The groups filing the lawsuit include the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Patients Out of Time, NORML, and California NORML. Also included are medical marijuana patients William Britt, Kathy Jordan, Michael Krawitz, and Rick Steeb.

"The federal government's strategy has been delay, delay, delay," said Joe Elford, chief counsel of ASA and lead counsel on the writ. "It is far past time for the government to answer our rescheduling petition, but unfortunately we've been forced to go to court in order to get resolution."

"Adhering to outdated public policy that ignores science has created a war zone for doctors and their patients who are seeking use cannabis therapeutics," said ASA director Steph Sherer.

"It is unacceptable for seriously ill Americans to wait a decade for their government to even respond to their petition for legal access to medicine to relieve their pain and suffering," said California NORML director Dale Gieringer. "The government's unreasonable delay seriously impugns its competence to oversee Americans' health care. The administration should act promptly to address its obsolete and bankrupt policy in accordance with President Obama's pledge to put science above politics."

"The Obama administration's refusal to act on this petition is an irresponsible stalling tactic," said Jon Gettman of the CRC.

This isn't the first time the DEA has failed to act on a marijuana rescheduling petition. NORML filed a petition in 1972. That time, it took the DEA 22 years to reject it, overruling its own administrative judge's finding that marijuana did have accepted medical use. Since then, the case for the medicinal use of marijuana has only grown stronger.

Forcing the DEA to act on the petition is a win-win for reformers. If the DEA concludes that marijuana does have medicinal value, it must be rescheduled. If the DEA concludes it does not, that finding can then be challenged in the federal courts.

Washington, DC
United States

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


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:

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:

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


Contribute to Just Say Now to support marijuana legalization. Click here:

Federally-Approved Medical Marijuana Patient Stumps Through Montana

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.

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

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