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DEA Bans Synthetic Marijuana

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced Wednesday that it is issuing an emergency ban on five chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana products. The ban will go into effect in 30 days and will at least temporarily place the chemicals on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Banned in 30 days (Image courtesy Wikimedia)
Marketed as incense and sold under names including Spice and K2, the stuff has grown increasingly popular since it first appeared on store shelves around two years ago. Spurred on by prohibitionist reflex, as well as reports of emergency room visits and calls to poison centers, 15 states have already banned synthetic pot products. Similar legislation is pending in several more. Last week, powerful Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wrote a letter to the DEA seeking a federal ban.

The ban announced Wednesday is temporary and will be in effect for one year, with the possibility of a six-month extension. During that period, DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services will decide whether the substances should be permanently controlled. 

“The American public looks to the DEA to protect its children and communities from those who would exploit them for their own gain,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart. “Makers of these harmful products mislead their customers into thinking that ‘fake pot’ is a harmless alternative to illegal drugs, but that is not the case. Today’s action will call further attention to the risks of ingesting unknown compounds and will hopefully take away any incentive to try these products.”

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) was quick to criticize the DEA's move. "The DEA says that prohibiting synthetic marijuana will 'control' it – yet we know from history that prohibition is the complete opposite of drug control," said DPA spokesman Tony Newman in a Wednesday press release. "DPA is advocating for establishing regulatory restrictions, such as age limits and product labeling requirements, rather than banning it outright and relegating it to the black market."

Despite approximately 2,000 poison control center contacts from synthetic pot users complaining of a variety of symptoms including nausea, rapid heartbeat, and disorientation, DPA noted that there are no known cases of fatal synthetic pot overdoses and that there is no evidence the stuff is addictive.

"Scheduling [synthetic marijuana] as a controlled substance will have unintended detrimental consequences," DPA warned. "If K2 were banned outright, young adults could face immediate, devastating and life-long legal barriers to education, employment, voting and government benefits for K2-related drug law violations, despite a lack of evidence of harm to themselves or others. The use of scarce government funds to enforce, prosecute and incarcerate people who use K2 would put a strain on criminal justice resources."

Washington, DC
United States

Surprise! DEA Boss Opposes Marijuana Legalization

Obama's nomination of Michele Leonhart to head the DEA is generating a lot of discussion about how horrible she is. In particular, this exchange from yesterday's Senate hearing is raising disturbing questions about what she'll do with the vast, unchecked drug war powers the President seeks to bestow upon her:

“I’m a big fan of the DEA,” said Sessions, before asking Leonhart point blank if she would fight medical marijuana legalization.

“I have seen what marijuana use has done to young people, I have seen the abuse, I have seen what it’s done to families. It’s bad,” Leonhart said. “If confirmed as administrator, we would continue to enforce the federal drug laws.”

“These legalization efforts sound good to people,” Sessions quipped. “They say, ‘We could just end the problem of drugs if we could just make it legal.’ But any country that’s tried that, Alaska and other places have tried it, have failed. It does not work,” Sessions said.

“We need people who are willing to say that. Are you willing to say that?” Sessions asked Leonhart.

“Yes, I’ve said that, senator. You’re absolutely correct [about] the social costs from drug abuse, especially from marijuana,” Leonhart said. “Legalizers say it will help the Mexican cartel situation; it won’t. It will allow states to balance budgets; it won’t. No one is looking [at] the social costs of legalizing drugs.” [Daily Caller]

Before everyone freaks out any further about the implications of Leonhart's pledge to enforce federal drug laws in states that have legalized medical marijuana, let's not forget that she's actually been running the DEA for three years. Federal raids on medical marijuana providers have decreased during her tenure and it's unlikely any of that will change just because the word "interim" gets removed from her title.

As I see it, the only significant aspect to the Leonhart story is Obama's horrendous decision to keep her around in the first place. She should've been tossed as a formality back in January '09 and replaced with some boring stooge we'd never heard of before. I have yet to hear a compelling theory as to why that didn’t happen, but my best guess is that there just isn't an abundance of impressive people interested in defending the dreadful deeds DEA does every day. The Obama Administration's confusing and disingenuous effort to soften the tone of the drug war rhetoric in Washington means they need a DEA boss who will generally keep their mouth shut. Leonhart's done a decent job in that department, and there might not be much else to the story.

Senate Holds Hearings on Controversial DEA Nominee [FEATURE]

Michele Leonhart's nomination to be Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) administrator appeared to be on track for an easy confirmation after a Wednesday hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nomination is opposed by the drug reform, medical marijuana, and hemp movements, but insiders say it is all but a done deal.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mleonhart.jpg
meet the new boss, same as the old boss
While reformers had hoped one or more senators would ask Leonhart "tough questions" about her tenure as acting DEA administrator, that didn't happen. Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) pressed Leonhart about easing access to pain medications for senior citizens in nursing homes, but that was about the extent of the prodding.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), expressing concern about all that legalization talk in the air, gave Leonhart the opportunity to assure him that she and the DEA stood steadfast. She obliged him.

"I have seen what marijuana use has done to young people," Leonhart said. "I've seen the addiction, the family breakup. I've seen the bad. I'm extremely concerned about the legalization of any drugs," she avowed. "We already have problems with prescription drugs, which are legal, so it's of concern."

Legalizers are singing a seductive siren song, Leonhart warned. "The danger of these legalization efforts, they say we could just end the problem of drugs if we just make it legal," she explained. "But any country that has tried that -- the Netherlands, Alaska -- it has not worked, it is failed public policy."

Leonhart was nominated by President Bush to be administrator at DEA after replacing Karen Tandy in 2007 and has been acting administrator ever since. The Obama administration renominated her as administrator in February, but the nomination languished as the committee dealt with other business, most notably addressing  a backlog of judicial nominations and preparing for confirmation hearings for the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Medical marijuana and drug reform advocacy groups have opposed Leonhart's nomination on a variety of grounds. As Special Agent in Charge of the DEA's Los Angeles office from 1998 to 2004 and DEA deputy administrator from 2003 to 2007, she presided over hundreds of raids on medical marijuana patients and providers. As acting administrator, she ran DEA while California medical marijuana raids continued unabated until the October 2009 Justice Department memorandum  to quit persecuting patients and providers "whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws."

Even since then, while DEA medical marijuana raids have diminished, they have not stopped. According to the medical marijuana support group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), since the memo went out, the DEA under Leonhart has engaged in more than 30 raids of medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal.

"As the deputy director, Ms. Leonhart supervised an unprecedented level of paramilitary-style enforcement raids designed to undermine safe access and the implementation of state medical marijuana programs," ASA said in an alert to its members.

Leonhart is also drawing fire from advocates for overturning a DEA administrative law judge's decision to issue a license to UMass-Amherst Professor Lyle Craker to grow marijuana for FDA-approved research. That decision left intact the federal government's monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes. It is grown only at the University of Mississippi.

And she is being opposed as well for her DEA's recalcitrance when it comes to industrial hemp. In a July letter to the committee, the industry group Vote Hemp said it opposed Leonhart's nomination because under her tenure DEA continues to block hemp production in the US, has failed for more than three years to respond to several applications from North Dakota-licensed farmers to grow hemp, and continues to maintain the fiction that hemp is marijuana.

"Michele Leonhart, the nominee for administrator and a lifetime DEA bureaucrat, severely lacks the vision to change policy on hemp farming for the better," the group said.  "Vote Hemp strongly opposes the nomination of Michele Leonhart to be Administrator of the DEA."

There is another reason to question her suitability to run DEA -- her dealings with and defense of one-time DEA "supersnitch" Andrew Chambers. Chambers earned an astounding $2.2 million for his work as a DEA informant between 1984 and 2000. The problem was that he was caught perjuring himself repeatedly. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals called him a liar in 1993, and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals echoed that verdict two years later.

But instead of terminating its relationship with Chambers, the DEA protected him, failing to notify prosecutors and defense attorneys about his record. At one point, DEA and the Justice Department for 17 months stalled a public defender seeking to examine the results of DEA's background check on Chambers. Even after the agency knew its snitch was rotten, it refused to stop using Chambers, and it took the intervention of then Attorney General Janet Reno to force the agency to quit using him.

Michele Leonhart defended Chambers. When asked if, given his credibility problems, the agency should quit using him, she said, "That would be a sad day for DEA, and a sad day for anybody in the law enforcement world... He's one in a million. In my career, I'll probably never come across another Andrew."

Another Leonhart statement on Chambers is even more shocking, as much for what it says about Leonhart as for what Leonhart says about Chambers. "The only criticism (of Chambers) I've ever heard is what defense attorneys will characterize as perjury or a lie on the stand," she said, adding that once prosecutors check him out, they will agree with his DEA admirers that he is "an outstanding testifier."

And then there's her connection to the "House of Death" scandal. The "House of Death" in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, was a house used by the Juárez drug cartel to murder people. Dozens of bodies were eventually recovered when the police raided it. The case revolves around a US Immigration and Customs (ICE) and DEA informant in Mexico, code-named "Lalo," who witnessed (and perhaps took part in) a murder in the House of Death during August 2003. In a lawsuit, whistleblower and former DEA Special Agent Sanalio Gonzalez charges that Leonhart and other officials fired him for speaking out about the murders and then helped cover the scandal up.

A number of reform groups have organized Internet and phone call-in campaigns in a bid to derail the nomination. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, NORML, California NORML, and Firedoglake have all sounded the alarm. So has the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

[Editor's Note: The interviews below were conducted before Wednesday's hearing.]

"We are asking our supporters and followers to contact their representatives if they are serving on the committee and tell them to ask her some tough questions about her previous actions," said MPP communications director Mike Meno. "She presided over hundreds of DEA raids on legal medical marijuana providers during Bush admin, and played a crucial role in rejecting applications to do FDA-level research on marijuana."

ASA provided a list of questions for the committee to ask Leonhart, including how raiding medical marijuana providers was an efficient use of DEA resources, how the DEA might work with medical marijuana states, why the DEA didn't just hand over cases of "clear and unambiguous" violations of state medical marijuana laws to state authorities, and when the DEA might get around to deciding the status of a 2002 petition to reschedule marijuana.

"I was hoping that this nomination was going to die a slow death but it appears as if they are going forward with it," said Tom Murphy, outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp. "We sent a letter in opposition, as I know a number of other organizations have. We've also got a pair of action alerts up on our web site. We've been working it against this since June, and we have a long list of reasons to oppose her nomination."

But it doesn’t appear that the senators on the Judiciary Committee are paying much heed to the stop Leonhart campaign. Despite the protests, her nomination is likely to sale through the committee tomorrow and be quickly approved by the Senate.

"Unfortunately, I don't think there's any chance of stopping her nomination," said Murphy. "She was nominated by Bush, and the committee sat on it, and renominated by Obama and they sat it on. Now we're a lame duck session, and they’re moving it. That tells me they have the votes to get it through and it's a done deal."

"The prospects aren't good. Every office we've talked to has said they weren't going to go against an Obama nominee," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which also opposed the nomination. "But if we can get some senators to put pressure on her publicly or privately, maybe she will quit being such as obstacle when it comes to things like Amherst and the raids. We're taking sort of a harm reduction approach, like when Asa Hutchinson was grilled during his hearing and came out in support of reducing the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity."

Getting Michele Leonhart to back off a little on the medical marijuana raids would be a welcome consolation, but don't hold your breath. Progressive drug policy stances are not the traditional province of the DEA, and it looks like nothing is going to change there for the foreseeable future.

Washington, DC
United States

Sen. Orrin Hatch Asks DEA to Ban Spice, K2

Products containing synthetic cannabinoids possessing psychoactive properties similar to marijuana if ingested, have been banned in a number of states -- and more are currently considering bans -- but are not illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Not yet, anyway. Last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch, the powerful Utah Republican, sent a letter to the DEA asking the agency to use its emergency powers to make synthetic cannabinoids a Schedule I controlled substance.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/orrin-hatch.jpg
a new target for the stalwart drug warrior
Sold under names such as K2, Spice, Yucatan Fire, and Solar Flare, among others, the stuff is marketed as incense or potpourri and can be found at smoke shops, head shops, gas stations, and other retail outlets in states where it is legal. It is also easily available via the Internet.

Users seek to replicate the high of marijuana without the attendant legal risks, but according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, they sometimes get more than they bargained for. The centers issued a report Monday saying that they had received more than 2,000 calls about synthetic cannabinoids so far this year.

Symptoms reported included nausea, rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, anxiety, and disorientation. While the centers reported that some symptoms can be "life-threatening," there are no known cases of a fatal synthetic cannabis overdose.

"Young adults and adolescents are turning to 'Spice' as a form of legalized marijuana, Hatch wrote in his letter to DEA acting administrator Michelle Leonhart. "Currently, almost two dozen states have passed legislation identifying spice as a controlled substance. I am requesting your assistance in having the Drug Enforcement Administration exercise its emergency scheduling authority to classify Spice as a schedule I substance."

Spice use in Utah was at "epidemic proportions" among the state's youth, Hatch complained.

If the DEA accedes to Hatch's demand, synthetic cannabinoids would be officially considered drugs with no accepted medical use and high potential for abuse, like marijuana, LSD, and heroin. Sales would be banned, and their users and sellers would be subject to federal prison sentences.

But Hatch's demand is no guarantee the agency will act. The DEA has had salvia divinorum on its list of drugs of interest for close to a decade now and has still not moved to make it a controlled substance, even though it has been banned or restricted in more than a dozen states.

Washington, DC
United States

Cops Ask Senate to Reject Obama's DEA Nomination Tomorrow (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2010

CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or tom@leap.cc

Pro-Legalization Police Group Asks Senate to Vote Against Obama's DEA Nominee

Judiciary Committee to Hold Confirmation Hearing on Wednesday

WASHINGTON, DC -- A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating marijuana and other drugs has sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee opposing President Obama's nominee to head the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The nominee, Michele Leonhart, has overseen numerous DEA raids of medical marijuana clinics operating in accordance with state laws during her tenure as acting DEA administrator. This is in direction violation of President Obama's campaign pledges and a Justice Department directive urging the DEA not to waste scarce law enforcement resources undermining the will of voters who have made medical marijuana legal in their states.

"As a police officer, I made arrests of drug users because I was held accountable for enforcing the law whether I agreed with it or not," wrote Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics cop, in his testimony on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which he leads as executive director.  "Ms. Leonhart should be held similarly accountable for her actions which were inconsistent with guidance from the Department of Justice, as well as President Obama’s clear intentions based on his popular campaign pledges."

The criminal justice professionals of LEAP are also concerned with Leonhart's apparent disregard for the value of human life, having once called the gruesome violence in Mexico's illegal drug market a sign of "success" for U.S. drug policy. 

"The tens of thousands of civilian deaths, which have continued to skyrocket since Ms. Leonhart’s statement, should not be measured as a sign of success," Franklin wrote. "Former Mexican president Vicente Fox and at least three additional former Latin American presidents have pointed out the failure of the US-led war on drugs and called for drastic change. The situation is Mexico is grave and escalating rapidly, putting US citizens in danger. Before the spillover violence gets any worse, the DEA needs a director who can engage world leaders in this debate and come to a solution."

Leonhart has served as acting administrator of the DEA for two years.  The hearing to confirm her as administrator takes place before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at 2:30 PM in 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

#     #     #

Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman

Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Statement of Major Neill Franklin on behalf of LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST PROHIBITION (LEAP) in opposition to the nomination of Ms. Michele Leonhart

Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in opposition to the nomination of Michele Leonhart for the position of Director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

After a 33-year career as a police officer, I became the executive director of LEAP, an association of current and former law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and criminal justice professionals at every level of government who are speaking out about the failure of our drug policy. 

Our members are deeply concerned about drug abuse and illicit drug market violence, and we have spent our careers fighting the drug war. Several of our members, including Russ Jones of Texas, Matthew Fogg of Washington, D.C., and Richard Amos of Florida, served as DEA agents or on DEA task forces. And as a police officer with the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department, I too made my share of drug arrests in addition to commanding multi-jurisdictional drug task forces.

We oppose Ms. Leonhart’s nomination because her statements and actions demonstrate questionable judgment.  Ms. Leonhart held a press conference regarding Mexican drug prohibition violence last year.  Since 2006, more than 28,000 people have died in Mexico as a result of the illegal drug market violence.  At the press conference, Ms. Leonhart indicated that such violence was a good sign. “Our view is that the violence we have been seeing is a signpost of the success our very courageous Mexican counterparts are having,” she said. “The cartels are acting out like caged animals, because they are caged animals.”

The tens of thousands of civilian deaths, which have continued to skyrocket since Ms. Leonhart’s statement, should not be measured as a sign of success. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox and at least three additional former Latin American presidents have pointed out the failure of the US-led war on drugs and called for drastic change. The situation is Mexico is grave and escalating rapidly, putting US citizens in danger. Before the spillover violence gets any worse, the DEA needs a director who can engage world leaders in this debate and come to a solution.

Ms. Leonhart’s judgment in allocating resources is questionable. Since her appointment by President Bush, she has overseen more than 200 federal raids in California and other medical marijuana states.  When Ms. Leonhart became interim director, these raids continued even after the issuance of the October 19, 2009 Department of Justice memo which recommended federal officials shift resources away from targeting those individuals and organizations operating in compliance with state laws related to medical marijuana. 

As a police officer, I made arrests of drug users because I was held accountable for enforcing the law whether I agreed with it or not.  Ms. Leonhart should be held similarly accountable for her actions which were inconsistent with guidance from the Department of Justice, as well as President Obama’s clear intentions based on his popular campaign pledges. Under her supervision, a DEA agent raiding a marijuana grower who was operating with the support of the sheriff in Mendocino County, CA, said, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.” This attitude is counterproductive. Given the grave problems associated with illegal drug market violence, we feel that conducting raids on individuals and caretakers acting in compliance with state and local law may not be the best use of the DEA’s limited resources.

The DEA needs a director whose decisions are guided by the best interests of our citizens. Despite calls by the American Medical Association, Ms. Leonhart has failed to respond to a petition calling for hearings to review the scheduling of marijuana. Despite the DEA’s own administrative law judge’s ruling that the University of Massachusetts should be able to cultivate marijuana for FDA-approved research, Ms. Leonhart has blocked such research. We encourage the nomination of a director who supports engaging in dialogue and the use of research to shape the best possible policies.

Ultimately, we feel Ms. Leonhart is not ready for the job of DEA director and qualified candidates are available.  In your confirmation hearings, the members of the Judiciary Committee should ask the difficult questions which will determine how she would intend to handle the changing nature of US drug laws. Voters across the country have created a gap between federal policy and state law that is steadily widening. In fifteen states, plus Washington D.C., the medical use of marijuana has been recognized. Several other states may choose to legalize marijuana in the next few years. The director of the DEA must be able to appropriately bridge this divide without wasting resources or causing unnecessary harm.

In the meantime, the criminal justice professionals of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition urge a no vote on Ms. Leonhart’s confirmation as DEA director.

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Medical Marijuana Advocates Bring Attention to DEA Confirmation Hearings: Acting DEA Head Michele Leonhart, a Bush-holdover, Led Aggressive Campaign Against Medical Marijuana (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2010
9:28 AM

CONTACT: Americans for Safe Access
SA Government Affairs Director Caren Woodson 510-388-0546 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

Medical Marijuana Advocates Bring Attention to DEA Confirmation Hearings

Acting DEA head Michele Leonhart, a Bush-holdover, led aggressive campaign against medical marijuana

WASHINGTON - November 15 - After more than two years as acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele Leonhart, who served as Deputy DEA Administrator during George W. Bush's presidency, is scheduled to be confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee this Wednesday, November 17th at 2:30pm EST. No friend to medical marijuana patients, Leonhart along with her former boss, DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, were responsible for more than two hundred paramilitary-style raids on patients and their providers. As Acting DEA Administrator, Leonhart has continued to raid dispensaries, growers and medical marijuana testing labs despite a change in federal policy under President Obama.

Although Leonhart is expected to be easily confirmed, advocates want to hold her feet to the fire, and are encouraging Senate Judiciary Committee members to ask tough questions about adherence to President Obama's Justice Department policy and her plans for addressing the growing divide between federal and state medical marijuana laws. "Leonhart's track record of causing untold harm to patients and their providers over the years is cause for a serious lack of trust in the medical marijuana community," said Caren Woodson, Director of Government Affairs with Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group, which has submitted questions to be asked of Leonhart during the confirmation hearing. "We need to know that Leonhart has a plan for medical marijuana and the protection of patients and that she will be held accountable for her actions."

What: Michele Leonhart's confirmation hearing to be the next DEA Administrator
When: Wednesday, November 17th at 2:30pm
Where: Senate Judiciary Committee, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226, Washington, DC

In October 2009, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys discouraging the use of federal resources to prosecute individuals who are in "clear and unambiguous compliance" with their state medical marijuana law. Since then, ASA has tracked more than 30 federal enforcement raids in California, Colorado, Hawaii, and Nevada, all medical marijuana states. By contrast, local and state governments are recognizing the need for, and authorizing methods of, distribution of medical marijuana. In a grassroots push over the next two days, medical marijuana advocates across the country are calling on Senate Judiciary Committee members to ask hard questions of Leonhart. "Leonhart must look at this as a public health issue and do more to reconcile the conflict between local, state and federal laws," continued Woodson.

In addition to enforcement, as head of the DEA, Leonhart will have authority over an unanswered marijuana Rescheduling petition that has been pending since 2002. Filed by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), the petition originally argued before the Bush Administration that marijuana has medical value and should be rescheduled. Now before the Obama Administration, advocates and coalition members are expecting more rigorous scrutiny on an issue that has been progressively moving toward scientific and mainstream acceptance. This past week it was confirmed that Arizona, which narrowly voted for Proposition 203, would become the country's 15th state to pass a medical marijuana law.

Under the authority of the Controlled Substances Act, Leonhart has significant control over medical marijuana research in the U.S., and has used her position as Acting Administrator to obstruct the scientific advancement of this important therapeutic substance. In January 2009, days before President Bush was to vacate his office, Acting Administrator Leonhart thwarted an effort to end federal obstruction of medical marijuana research, ignoring an 87-page recommendation from her own DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner, who ruled that such research was "in the public interest." The DEA and the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) have colluded to obstruct medical efficacy studies by prioritizing research on the supposed harmful effects of marijuana.

Further information:
Leonhart confirmation hearing notice: http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=4850
ASA Questions for Leonhart: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/ASA_Leonhart_Questions.pdf
ASA Memo to Senate Judiciary Committee: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/ASA_Leonhart_Memo.pdf

###
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Dr. Mollie Fry's Medical Marijuana Conviction Upheld

A panel on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the marijuana cultivation and distribution conspiracy convictions of California Dr. Marion "Mollie" Fry and her partner, Dale Schafer. Fry and Schafer, both medical marijuana patients, had been sentenced to five years in federal prison in the case, but were free on bail pending the appeal. There is no word yet on when they will have to report to prison or whether they will try further appeals.

After developing breast cancer, Dr. Fry turned to medical marijuana, and she and Schafer built up a medical marijuana practice, with Dr. Fry writing recommendations and she and Schafer growing and distributing marijuana to patients. They did so with the understanding from local law enforcement that they were in compliance with state law.

But local law enforcement was working with the DEA, and the couple was raided, arrested, and convicted of violating federal drug control laws. Because they were convicted of growing more than 100 plants, they face mandatory minimum five-year prison sentences.

They appealed the conviction, arguing that because local law enforcement agents were cooperating with the DEA at the same time they were assuring the couple they were in compliance with state law, local law enforcement was in effect working for the feds to entrap them. They also argued that local law enforcement entrapped them for sentencing purposes by encouraging them to grow more than 100 plants, the number that triggers a mandatory minimum sentence. And they argued their convictions should be overturned because they were not allowed to mount a medical marijuana defense.

But the 9th Circuit panel didn't buy any of it. In the opinion authored by Judge Richard Tallman, the court held that Fry and Schafer did not prove they were entrapped and that they were correctly precluded by Supreme Court precedent from mounting a medical marijuana defense. Now, the health-care providing couple are most likely headed to federal prison for their efforts.   

San Francisco, CA
United States

Stop Stifling Proposition 19 Supporters (Action Alert)

We Are Drug Policy Action.

Tell the Attorney General to stay out of the Prop. 19 debate!

Register to vote!
Send him a letter today!

Dear friends,

Recently, in a letter to former DEA administrators, Attorney General Eric Holder said:

"We will vigorously enforce the [federal law] against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law."

This carefully-timed statement is an attempt to take the steam out of the Prop. 19 movement. But the fact of the matter is states can decide their own marijuana laws, and if Proposition 19 passes it will effectively legalize marijuana in California.

Write Attorney General Eric Holder today and tell him to stay out of the Prop. 19 debate and respect voters' choices!

Polls continue to show Proposition 19 at about even odds of passing, and thanks to the help of supporters like you, we've been able to work with the "Yes on 19" campaign to launch a significant TV and online ad campaign as well as make thousands of calls to California voters and raise money to get out the vote. It's this sort of activism that will tip the scales on Election Day.

With only six days left until Californians take to the polls, we can't let empty threats stop our momentum. Send a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and tell him that marijuana legalization is an issue states must decide for themselves!

Back in 1996, the federal government said the medical marijuana initiative in California was a symbolic gesture at most because they would continue to criminalize all marijuana use. Now, fourteen other states and the District of Columbia have functioning medical marijuana laws. It was politically-motivated saber rattling then -- just as Attorney General Holder's statement is today.

Let's put sound policy before petty politics. Write Attorney General Holder today!

Sincerely,

Stephen Gutwillig
State Director, California
Drug Policy Action

Location: 
CA
United States

Oops! Obama Offends DEA With Drug War Comments

President Barack Obama insulted -- albeit inadvertently -- the folks at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration by mentioning the FBI instead of their agency in remarks about the war on drugs. Over the years, the DEA has often felt neglected -- or at least has been in the shadow of the FBI. To boot, there have been occasional rumors over the years about the DEA being folded into the FBI, which also investigates drug cases.
Publication/Source: 
AOL News (US)
URL: 
http://www.aolnews.com/politics/article/president-obama-offends-dea-agents-with-drug-war-comments/19674990

Quote of the Day

Last week's Wall Street Journal op-ed from nine former DEA administrators resulted in some interesting letters to the editor. Here's my favorite:

The authors say, "Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them." I suppose that is why after 37 years, trillions of taxpayer dollars, and tens if not hundreds of thousands of drug-related murders later, today's high-school kids are a text message away from buying pot whenever they want, and a decent chunk of our border with Mexico is ruled by drug gangs.

D. Silvers
Orlando, Fla.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Anyone whose professional bio includes the title "Former DEA Administrator" shouldn't be looked to for advice or expertise on drug policy.

Drug War Issues

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