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Feature: DEA Raids More California Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, Prompting Obama Administration to Reiterate Pledge to Stop Them

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DEA agents raided four medical marijuana dispensaries in the Los Angeles area Tuesday, hitting two in Venice, one in Marina Del Rey, and one in Playa del Rey. The raids come nearly two weeks after President Obama took office and on the same day that Eric Holder was confirmed as head of the Justice Department, the agency that oversees DEA operations. They mark the second such incident taking place under the Obama administration, the first being a January 22nd raid of a medical marijuana dispensary in South Lake Tahoe.
DEA and SFPD dispensary raid, May 2008 (courtesy Bay Area Indymedia)
President Obama made repeated campaign pledges to halt the raids on dispensaries operating within California's medical marijuana laws, and by Wednesday night, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro was telling the Washington Times that the raids would end once new DOJ officials are appointed.

"The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind," Shapiro said.

The raids came a day before the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) announced it had commissioned a poll by Zogby International that found overwhelming support for ending the DEA raids. The poll asked the question: "During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama said he would stop federal raids against medical marijuana providers in the 13 states where medical marijuana has become legal. Should President Obama keep his word to end such raids?"

More than two-to-one in all geographic, demographic, and political groups answered "yes." Overall, 72% of respondents said stop the raids.

No one was arrested in Tuesday's raids, but as is typically the case, DEA agents broke down doors and seized marijuana destined for patients as well as cash and computers. Several dispensary operators told California activist organizations that agents acted even more aggressively than usual.

"Those raids were little more than piracy," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "The conduct of the agents was unprofessional and vindictive. They call them 'investigations,' but they just go in there and steal medicine and money and smash things."

Gieringer cited reports he had received that DEA agents destroyed surveillance cameras at at least one location, possibly destroyed a computer hard drive at another, and took bags of cash without counting it or providing a receipt from another.

"Whose interest does that serve?" asked Gieringer. "And not counting the cash, that's a real no-no. This whole thing needs to be investigated; it's not serving any legitimate purpose. And they picked on places that were modest, well-controlled, legal under state law, and no trouble to anybody. That's pretty scummy."

Drug War Chronicle contacted all four dispensaries hit by the DEA Tuesday, but in each case, either no one was available or no one was willing to talk about the raids. Nor did Los Angeles DEA spokesperson Sarah Pullen, who usually talks to the Chronicle, respond to repeated requests for comment.

Pullen did talk to the Los Angeles Times, but she didn't have much to say. "I can't get into details as to the probable cause behind the warrants except for the fact that they're dealing with marijuana, which is illegal under federal law," she said.

But Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), said allegations of DEA misconduct during raids are nothing new. "We have received repeated reports of DEA agents not counting cash or providing receipts, as well as instances of agents damaging surveillance cameras placed in facilities to record what is going on inside and outside," he said. "A few months ago in Long Beach, while the federal agents were smashing video cameras, other cameras were recording them doing so and sending the images to an off-site server, so, in this case, at least, we have video evidence of them doing just what they are again accused of."

Hermes also noted that even without the extracurricular activities, the DEA raids on dispensaries are heavy-handed and thuggish. "If you look at them smashing doors and windows and leveling any property in a facilty, that's pretty routine, and has been happening for the past couple of years," he said. "They go in with paramilitary gear, with flak jackets, automatic weapons, sometimes even wearing ski masks, destroy what's inside, and take medicine, money, computers, and patient records, and trash the place."

"This is upsetting," said Bruce Mirken, San Francisco-based communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It's impossible to know at this point how high up this was authorized or whether it was Bush holdovers still doing what they've been doing, but candidate Obama made a promise on this, and it's time for him to keep it," he declared Wednesday, prior to the White House response appearing in the media.

"That should mean it's time for a major housecleaning at DEA, and that's the right thing to do, not only morally, but also politically," Mirken said. "California voted for Obama, as did 11 of the 13 medical marijuana states, including traditionally Republican states like Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico that flipped into the Obama column in the November elections. And medical marijuana outpolled Obama in Michigan. There is no downside for Obama in doing the right thing."

Mirken was singing a significantly happier tune by Thursday morning. "The White House comments last night are very significant," he said. "This is a historic break with 13 years of federal policy since Proposition 215 passed in 1996. The simple decision that federal resources should not be used to undermine state medical marijuana laws is a fundamental change from the policies pursued not only by Bush, but also by Clinton," he said.

"A lot will depend, of course, on the follow-through," Mirken continued, "but this is a clear signal to the folks at DEA that the game has changed. Now, we will have to see what happens next, both with ensuring that the raids actually stop, and more broadly, that the Obama administration adopts the general theme about respecting science and basing policy on facts rather than ideology. This, I think, marks the beginning of the end of a tragic and stupid federal policy, and all I can say is thank god."

During the long-lived presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama stated in August 2007 that he "would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users... It's not a good use of our resources." In March 2008, he reiterated that: "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue."

Two months after that, an Obama spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle: "Voters and legislators in the states -- from California to Nevada to Maine -- have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering. Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice."

Not surprisingly, ASA, the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group, jumped in with calls for President Obama and Attorney General Holder to turn promises into policy. "As the new Attorney General, one of Eric Holder's top priorities should be to end these harmful raids on state-sanctioned medical marijuana providers," said ASA director of government affairs Caren Woodson. "And, until a new head of the DEA is confirmed, Holder has a responsibility to cease the existing policy being carried out by Bush Administration officials. Attorney General Holder has the ability to halt this harmful and outdated policy," said Woodson. "And he should do so immediately."

Other drug policy groups joined the chorus as well. "When President Bush was on the campaign trail in 2000 he promised not to interfere in state medical marijuana laws, but that turned out to be a lie as the DEA proceeded to terrorize medical marijuana patients and providers by raiding dozens of dispensaries across California," said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "President Obama said on the campaign trail that these raids would end under his administration and millions believed him. We hope these recent raids don't represent official administration policy and that Obama will order federal agencies in no uncertain terms to stop harassing medical marijuana patients and providers in California."

"President Obama needs to show federal agencies who is boss," said DPA national affairs director Bill Piper. "If he doesn't put a halt to these raids, the DEA will continue to undermine his campaign promises."

By Thursday morning, ASA was tentatively congratulating the White House for its reiteration of those campaign pledges. "More than 72 million people live in a state that has enacted laws that authorize the limited use and distribution of cannabis for therapeutic use," Woodson said. "The White House's comments have provided patients and their loved ones a sense of relief, and we hope the President and our Attorney General will keep this pledge in mind when considering appointments to the DEA and Office of National Drug Control Policy."

Perhaps, finally, a new day is dawning when it comes to the federal government's stance on medical marijuana. But the weeks and month to come are what will tell.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Nothing more than thieves

But Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), said such allegations are nothing new. "We have received repeated reports of DEA agents not counting cash or providing receipts, as well as instances of agents damaging surveillance cameras placed in facilities to record what is going on inside and outside," he said. "A few months ago in Long Beach, while the federal agents were smashing video cameras, other cameras were recording them doing so and sending the images to an off-site server, so, in this case, at least, we have video evidence of them doing just what they are again accused of."

Hermes also noted that even without the extracurricular activities, the DEA raids on dispensaries are heavy-handed and thuggish. "If you look at them smashing doors and windows and leveling any property in a facilty, that's pretty routine, and has been happening for the past couple of years," he said. "They go in with paramilitary gear, with flak jackets, automatic weapons, sometimes even wearing ski masks, destroy what's inside, and take medicine, money, computers, and patient records, and trash the place."

My comment:
How can ANY American support those kinds of tactics in a supposedly free country? Every single agent who has ever taken part in any of those raids on legal dispensaries should be arrested, tried, and convicted of first degree robbery and vandalism. They are no different than other home invasion/smash & grab thieves. Those agents deserve to be in prison -- let the pot smokers out, and make room for those DEA agents, the real criminals.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Change Of Command! This is a Normal, expected occurance.

Give it time and hold these thugs accountable till Obama shows his support. We're so close to making things right once and for all. To fight back would be a set back against all America, don't give up the faith in Obama, patients are clearly in their rights. President Obama will be there to save patients! Medical MJ Tennessee Activist are here with you all the way. What can we do to assit California folks?

TN Activist
R.D. Seymour
Cookeville, TN

One stroke of the pen... all it would take for the Messiah. Ever heard of Executive Orders? They apply to executive branch agencies, of which the DEA is one of the severely retarded, out of control, bastard, step-children.

Oh dang, I forget. With the economy collapsing all around his crown, all resources are being diverted to the printing presses for more FRNs for Obama's bankster butt buddies. No ink for pens when you need FRNs. There's an ink shortage, don't ya know.

comparison to Clinton exit; who's behind raids

Eight years ago the right wing scolded Clinton's "liberals" for allegedly trashing the White House on their move out. Here is the counterpart-- don't let anyone miss it. It's the bullies' last chance to show their hatred.

Meanwhile give serious consideration to who is really behind anti-cannabis "laws" and this kind of law-enforcement. Just consider what happens to any typical commercial cigarette (among hundreds of billions mass marketed in this country each year) when the user, following the unquestioned tradition catered to by the companies, disposes of it after use. "What I do to this cigarette I could just as soon do to you." In view of what Big Tobackgo does to its own loyal customers, is there any surprise how eager its DEA agents are to vandalize cameras, computers, files, anything associated with its nemesis cannabis?

Link to tobacco overdrawn? Taxation is a two-edged sword. While applauding cigarette tax increases because a 10% increase in cigarette price reduces consumption 5% or whatever, remember it increases the government-- and government employees'-- stake in the continued cigarette trade. This DEA behavior is government's reward to the tobacco industry for all that tax money!

Why Big Tobackgo fears cannabis? Secondarily because it's a different herb which, once legalized, everyone will raise in their garden making a high profit oligopoly like with today's tobacco cigarettes improbable. Foremost because vaporizers, e-cigarettes (with THC in the cartridge), long-stemmed one-hitters and other comparably safe but unprofitable "paraphernalia" will, once cannabis is legal, also be legal and will displace hot-burning overdose cigarettes which are the mainstay of the industry profit margin. These DEA raids, maybe on a low-consciousness level, are Big Tobackgo sending a warning out to anyone who dares use any harm-reduction utensil or anything safer (but less easy to hide) than a cigarette for smoking purposes. It is the equivalent of a cop confiscating your $600 Volcano to teach you and your friends "a lesson".

it will take time

It will take time. Rome wasn't built in a day and much more will happen before these raids will be stopped. thousands more will be jailed or killed before America's number 1 cash crop is made legal. I believe Obama will uphold his promise and stop federal raids on marijuana grow houses but that is not enough. what these DEA officials and police officers are doing IS CRIMINAL. a marijuana farmer only breaks the law 'thou shalt not farm marijuana' but a DEA agent or cop steals, vandalizes, lies under oath, and kills the people they've sworn to protect.

Every day the American government turns on its own people: they jail us, they hunt us, and they kill us. It's time to stop this war.

I Agree

however, we are not asking to build Rome we are asking for a simple signature to end the raids until the appointments have been made.

If one person dies in these raids the President has failed the American People. This is his watch and he shall be held responsible and accountable to the American People for the actions of the Federal Government.

Michele Leonhart and Sarah Pullen shall be held accountable for Murder and Treason -

1. the offense of acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign.
2. a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state.
3. the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery...

Well stated

The purpose of laws is to protect people, not kill, steal from, kidnap, and deny the pursuit of happiness, which is a constitutional right, as long as it doesn't cause harm. The constitution does not give government the right to do what it wants. For example, they don't have the power to make such laws, those laws don't benefit the people, they cause great harm, and destruction, it's the laws that cause the violence, not drugs.
And, government sponsored terrorism is the norm in Amerika, but outside Amerika, it wont be tolerated
I mean, face it the "war on drugs" is a terrorist campaign waged by our government, on our people. Nothing Saddam did even comes close to what the US government is inflicting on it's citizens.
And, I'm sorry, but for the billions of dollars wasted every year, for 30 years, and no results, is just ludicrous, obscene, an insult, and really makes our government look STUPID. Which isn't hard, but they don't have to make themselves look that ridiculously idiotic, do they?

Human inclination to HATE

Human inclination to HATE and PERSECUTE a sub-class of citizens is what drug prohibition is __and always has been__ all about. Since the government can no longer use the law to harass non-white citizens (just as they were intended when conceived) the drug war provides convenient scapegoats for the hate mill -- The Constitution and Rule of Law be DAMNED

The United POLICE States of Amerika = Land of the Subjugated, Home of the Timid!


I agree that the Drug War is a failed and futile war on people, not drugs.
The US criminal-justice/correctional/penitentiary system is overflowing with people on long mandatory sentances for victimless "crimes".
But if you are talking about terrorism, take a look at what the US is doing internationally. Especially, as an American, take a look at what is happening in Latin America and South America. For example in the last 5 years cocaine production has increased 15% while the DEA wastes mega-bucks on "coca eradication" progarms that are nothing more than unilateral chemical warfare, targeting some of the poorest people on the continent and de-forresting some of the most critical rainforest environments in the world.
America DOES tolerate state-sponsored Terrorism outside of the US, just so long as it is carried out by the US or allies, and just so long as it targets the "right" people.
If you ain't angry about this, you haven't been paying attention!
xxx Dr Jane.

Marijuana raids.

August 15 2007 at 4:00am. my home was smashed into by Illinois State Police S.L.A.N.T.. Upon smashing in they terrorized my family at gun point. Vandalized our property and shoved a gun and a flashlight into the face of my sleeping 9 year old daught shocking her out of a sound sleep. After rounding me,my lady friend and our daughter up to another part of the house. These thugs then began their rein of disgust. Vandalizing and smashing private property. During this faray, my daughter was given the okay to go and use the toilet. upon doing so she stepped into her bedroom and was floored by what she witnessed. She witnessed one of these dirt bags with a pair of her dirtty panties sniffing them! Hows that for law enforcement? Rockford, Illinois S.L.A.N.T. Police. R/A Schroeder Badge#9696. M/Sgt. Meiborg Badge#3121. Sgt. Lehmann Badge# 3296. R/A Gately Badge#9779. R/A Jerry Badge#9837. R/A Madigan Badge# 9699 and R/A Ellefson BAdge#9710. The Magnificant Seven, Cream of the Crop Scumbags!

Here's hoping Obama OKs research on Marijuana

What gets me excited is the propect that we might actually give the most persecuted plant in the history of the world a chance. You want to create millions of new jobs? then research the feasability of using this plant for everything from bio-diesel to building materials, from clothes (slow down soil erosion & run off of pesticides due to cotton) to paper (slow down de-forestation - only thin the forests to help prevent massive forest fires) and cellulose ethanol.

There should be a Futures contract on the CBOT for "#2 Marijuana" and another for "Marijuana Oil"

There is smply no other plant that can create the kind of biomass this one can. Corn ethanol is idiotic as is the persecution of this plant. (And don't refer to the Canadian study on oil from marijuana, It's based on using Canada's neutered variety...less than 2% THC or whatever, that study is bullshit no matter how official it looks)

If scientists were actually able to study this plant for possible practical uses the possibilities would be endless. And this contry could be a major producer.

Of course, what would all the DEA agents, drug testing companies and jails do? Find another, more productive use for their time.

Assholes! I didn't vote for Obama based on his "tax the successful to reward the failures" but if something is done on this front hell have my support in 4 years.

obama is not going to do

obama is not going to do nothing for you but make lame ass speeches with a fake southern accent


Are sort of like the new NAZI's.

Hemp should be in the economic stimulus bill

Or a separate economic stimulus bill. It's a no brainer, you can't get fricking high from it. Come on Congress do something useful that only has benefits. What is your problem! You're so unhinged by weed that you're shooting the country in the foot over hemp. What have you rascals been drinking?

Its nice that Obama

finally did something. Even if it is mealy mouthed and half-assed.

More conclusive would be for him to support Barney Frank's medical marijuana bill in the congress. Or Frank's personal use marijuana decriminalization bill.

H.R.5842 : To provide for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States. (Hosted page by Aid & comfort blog H.R. 5842)

H.R.5843 : To eliminate most Federal penalties for possession of marijuana for personal use, and for other purposes. (Hosted page by Aid & comfort blog H.R. 5843)

H.R. 5842 would resolve the problems for medical cannabis users and their suppliers once and for all.

Contact your state legislators and encourage them to reschedule pot to a summary offense. And at the sale time direct their delegations in congress to support the Frank bills. Contact your members in congress to support the Frank bills NOW!

I would but...

My congressman is Dan Burton, the Uber-Drug Warrior and he'd probably just send some thugs to my house and have me beaten.

I do vote against him every election, and it's getting closer.

Let me surprise you

Here is a web page I put back up just for you.

It is Burton's final soliloquy as chairman of the House Government Reform Committee in Dec. 2002.

"So I have one question I would like to ask all of you, and I think this is a question that needs to be asked. I hate drugs. I hate people who succumb to drug addiction, and I hate what it does to our society. It has hit every one of us in our families or friends of ours. But I have one question that nobody ever asks, and that is this question: What would happen if there was no profit in drugs? If there was no profit in drugs, what would happen? And I'd like any of you to answer. If they couldn't make any money out of selling drugs, what would happen?"

Obamas Credibility

That anybody believes what Obama says is simply amazing considering how he has contradicted himself so many times. The guy is over his head twisting in the political breezes doing only those things that will personally benefit him. Don't expect any drug reform from him or the Congress..

Your right on the money man.

Your right on the money man. Tell me why more people can't see this fact ?


It's obvious that the DEA has become a counterproductive rogue agency.

The DEA and ONDCP need to be decommissioned and dismantled. ONDCP needs no replacement, and the FBI could handle drug trafficking. Time to get rid of the thugs, thiefs, torturers, and those who abuse their authority. BIG TIME.

From Pro to Con

For this (non action) and his other actions, I've gone from Pro Obama to Con. This was the absolute easiest promise for him to keep. I simply do not believe that it is beyond his power to end these raids NOW.

I think it's a little early

to condemn Obama, he has a LOT to deal with right now. I agree, however, that it is within his power to order the DEA to cease these raids immediately, and that he should do so. He may be doing so right now.

Obama's doing good stuff, or at least trying to. I don't believe that McCain would be doing ANYTHING to help us if he were president. He'd more than likely just cut taxes on the rich some more, you know, to stimulate the economy.

At least with Barack Obama, I can believe that he's a genuinely good and kind person and wants to do the right thing. If the republicans keep him from helping us, then God help the Republicans come election time.

Speak Out For Reform / Know the Enemy

I agree that serious reform is coming, however.

The drug reform movement has largely overlooked the old dictum, "follow the money" and the money goes all the way to the top.

According to Daniel Hopsicker, the folks writing the laws are working both sides of the fence, big time and for the benefit of stakeholders at the highest levels of our society.

When seeking reform while opposing a criminal enemy it is best to know the enemy.

Pelosi has urged Americans to speak out on this issue and many more should do so.


What are you waiting for? Stop the medical marijuana raids.


Just getting that last bit of overtime before it is cut off.

Do not get sick in America: We are a Utopia for the perfect

DEA has private stashes.

DEA = Dumb Evil Assholes

The dogs, of political whores and criminals, will someday be judged and punished for their blatant crimes against the constitution and our inalienable rights.

So go home mr. dumb evil asshole, and any other cooperating law enforcement agency, and celebrate your fathomless stupidity and hypocracy with your favorite alcoholic drug... it is 'americas socially acceptable national drug' after-all!

And for all those that pretend to know and understand their rights the time for talk is over... we've been talking to these prohibitionist criminals for over 70 years with few tangible results at the federal level.

If I were a state governor the next time a federal agency violated one of my states laws i'd have the national guard arrest and incarcerate those federal agents... for the next 70 years... or until uncle scam pulls his collective head out of his ass... and begs forgiveness... which i'd think about... I'll give you my answer in 10 years... at your first parole hearing... assholes!

About Time!!

If the president is honest, He'll do what he promised. DEA acts like a bunch of terrorists most of the time. The no knock search warrants. Gee Whiz!!!

National Medical Marijuana program

It is my understanding that the Government has run a Medical Marijuana program for since Bush 1 was in office, this program sends Marijuana to it members in 11oz tins. While i hear the weed is crap, still, should 11oz become the state standard? I fill my other medications in a 3 month supply, why must i get my Medical Marijuana in 2-3 week supplies?

Fed Medical Marijuana?

Really? And what universe do you live in? If I'm the one who is out of the loop, please fill me in on where I apply for my prescription. The local DEA office no doubt?

It's not exactly a

It's not exactly a prescription and the FDA  hasn't been accepting new applicants or applications for the "Compassionate IND program" since 1991 or 1992 (the time is a bit murky). Many people believe the program was a sham (started as part of a lawsuit settlement) to guard against successful medical necessity or commonlaw necessity defenses in criminal cases from leading to removal of cannabis from Schedule I either due to court order or so much publicity and public support that Congress would reschedule cannabis. Likewise many people believe the program stopped taking new applicants so the people in the program would die off rather than increase and possibly lead to successful ligitagion for rescheduling citing the program's patients as evidence of currently accepted medical use in the United States. There seem to be 4 program patients still living.

Some links of interest are:

Google Robert Randall, marijuana Compassionate Use IND, Alliance For Cannabis Therapeutics, cases cited in or any search terms that seem likely to turn up info.

IMO medical marijuana laws provide little  more than an illusion of access for most people and the controversy distracts reformers from the general problem of denial of access to medicine. Our whole mandatory prescription system is fundamentally flawed and needs major revision.

kjs420's picture

These are professionals?

Drugs are not the problem, the war on drugs, is the problem.
Can anyone explain how this differs from crimes, ordinary citizens would go to jail for?
This is Nazi Germany right in our own back yard. Ski masks, paramilitary gear, assault weapons, who condones this type of activity as any form of proper procedure? These are nothing more than terrorists. These are government sponsored terrorists, plain and simple. Why the hell are we in Iraq killing innocent people, when our army is needed here to protect us from our own government? This whole thing is senseless, These DEA agents are a clear and immediate danger to the whole country. What should be classified as a "national security risk", is ignored.This is an outrage, and mustn't be tolerated.
This is homegrown terrorism at it's worst. Our government is so busy fighting smoke in foreign lands, it doesn't see the destruction in it's own country, by itself. Something has to change. This is irresponsible, at best, and has been going on far too long. How can anybody in their right mind think this is beneficial to anybody?

DEA Crosstraining

We need to think about crosstraining 1/2 of the current DEA agents into the Harm Reduction Health Care Field. As healthcare agents could make about the same amount of money, but would have to stop being thugs and help people who want to clean up.

we're dealing with fear

People that have not,will not and who object to anyone else trying will not be easily persuaded to drop their objection to the lifting of our current drug laws.They are afraid and still think it's opening a Pandora's box to legalize any drugs.I used to think junkies were a plague on humanity determined to addict the rest of us.I also remember being more than a little concerned before trying pot myself.Try to remember how you felt before you first tried a drug,that wasn't legal.I'm sure it's a lot less inhibiting now than it was in 1968.When I first tried pot it was a really rare experience in Vancouver B.C.It set you apart from a huge segment of society.Just 10 years later they were talking about legalization in Ottawa.They're still talking and they've gone backwards in thinking on the subject by about 40 years.

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