DEA Turning Its Sights on Patients, Small Growers in Escalating California Medical Marijuana Conflict 9/6/02

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While the US Justice Department has for months been escalating its campaign to reign in California's voter-approved experiment with medical marijuana, it has also claimed that it was really only targeting criminal trafficking activity disguised as providing medicine to the ill. That claim is growing increasingly threadbare. A series of raids this summer documented by California NORML (http://www.canorml.org) shows that despite its disclaimers, the DEA is now targeting patients and small growers in California.

"I don't know of any instance in which there's been a federal targeting of any user; that's not within the federal priority system," DEA head Asa Hutchison told a hostile San Francisco crowd in April. "We have gone after traffickers. If you have 500 marijuana plants, that is of concern."

Either Hutchison needs to have a word with his underlings or his San Francisco comments are, in that hallowed Nixonian phrase, "no longer operative."

"We have been waiting for the other shoe to drop with some big bust, possibly of a co-op or compassion club," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "But what we are seeing instead is a series of raids directed at patients and growers who have no connection at all to trafficking," he told DRCNet.

The list of recent DEA actions directed at patients or small growers includes:

  • An August 15 raid in which DEA agents destroyed a 6-plant patient garden belonging to Diane Monson of Oroville, openly defying a plea from Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey to leave her plants alone.
  • An August 15 raid in which DEA agents in Santa Rosa ripped up the medical garden of Alan MacFarlane, a cancer patient who was acquitted of growing 100 plants for his personal medical use in a jury trial last year. This time, the agents took 128 plants, which MacFarlane says were being grown for 10 seriously ill patients in accordance with Sonoma County guidelines.
  • In Orange County, patient Michael Teague was arrested by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms after his Prop 215 cultivation case was dismissed in state court. Teague, who had a legal handgun in his closet, was arrested on charges of being an "unlawful drug user in possession of a handgun."
  • In Mendocino County, the federal government filed charges against disabled patient David Arnett and his caregiver David Kephart for growing just 27 plants on BLM land after their case was dismissed by the DA under Prop. 215.
The DEA has also targeted well-known medical marijuana activists, such as:
  • Lynn and Judy Osburn, who were recently arrested by the DEA for growing a personal use garden of 35 plants at their Ventura County ranch. The Osburns had been raided last year for cultivating for the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, but no indictment was delivered in that case. However, the government moved to forfeit their home, and they were put under DEA surveillance.
  • Charles "Eddy" Lepp, another well-known activist, was raided by the DEA in Lake County last week. Lepp, who was acquitted for growing 132 plants in a high-profile trial in 1998, had been openly growing for himself and other patients.
  • In Sonoma County, another former Prop. 215 defendant, Mike Foley, who was acquitted for providing marijuana to a San Francisco patients' group last year, was re-arrested by the FBI for growing a modest garden that was within county guidelines for personal use.
  • Valerie Corral of the Women's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz, and Mike Corral, were arrested yesterday (Thursday, September 5) and their garden destroyed by the DEA. WAMM is a collective serving 300 seriously ill patients, many of them terminal.
"This is an ongoing campaign, and there is no doubt that US Attorneys have been given the order to go after medical marijuana," said Gieringer. "This is really vicious and is happening under the radar. They barely know it's happening on the West Coast, let alone in Washington, DC, and Texas, where the decisions are made. The audacity of the Justice Department in trying to claim it is not going after medical marijuana patients is mind-boggling," Gieringer added.

The sentencing of yet another medical marijuana grower, Bryan Epis, could provide the setting for a major protest of federal government policies, Gieringer said. Epis, who is to be sentenced on September 23, faces a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. Americans for Safe Access (http://www.safeaccessnow.org), a campaign of the Cannabis Action Network, is planning a mass action at the sentencing and has prepared an "emergency response network" ready to spring into action in the event of another major bust. But, given the federal government's new tactic of going after the small fish, medical marijuana supporters may have to rethink their response strategy.

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Issue #253, 9/6/02 Editorial: Federal Evildoers | DEA Turning Its Sights on Patients, Small Growers in Escalating California Medical Marijuana Conflict | Canadian Senate Panel Calls for Marijuana Legalization -- Urges Regulation and Control, Rejects US Pressure | You Are Now Leaving the EU: Christiania Gets Raided | Ducheneaux Guilty in Medical Marijuana Case as South Dakota Attorney General Candidates Unite Against Jury Rights Amendment | Massachusetts Local Ballots to Include Marijuana Decriminalization, Medical Marijuana, Hemp Questions | Medical Marijuana Polling: Yet More Info on MarijuanaInfo.org | 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse Results Published | Stossel Tapes Still Available -- Support DRCNet and Reserve Your Copy of This Important ABC News Report Today! | Newsbrief: Board of Canvassers Rejects Michigan Initiative, Appeals Court Next | Newsbrief: California Legislature Passes Bill to Make Prop. 36 Clients Eligible for Food Stamps, Awaits Governor's Signature | Newsbrief: Nevada Marijuana Initiative Loses Support in Latest Poll | Newsbrief: Rainbow Farm to Be Auctioned | Newsbrief: Chills Owner Gets 14 Months on Federal Paraphernalia Rap | Newsbrief: DEA Busting Pipe-Sellers Again, This Time They Hit Illinois | Newsbrief: Tennessee Towns Fire Police Forces, Cite Too Much Attention to Meth Labs | Newsbrief: World of Competitive Bridge Fends Off Drug Menace, US Player Loses Medal for Refusing Drug Test | Newsbrief: DEA Brokers Thai-Lao Border Drug Cooperation Deal | Media Scan: Shawn Heller, Dan Forbes, Dan Gardner, Nando Times, Canadian Editorial Cartoons, DrugSense Drug Policy Links | Third Annual Fortune Society Prisoner Art Contest | Legislative Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision | The Reformer's Calendar
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