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Feature: End of an Era? No More DEA Raids on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, US Attorney General Says

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #574)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

In response to a question at a Wednesday news conference, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal under state law. The announcement marks the fulfillment of a President Obama campaign promise, and it marks the end of 13 years of stubborn federal resistance to state medical marijuana programs.


DEA raids of medical marijuana facilities in California continued after Obama's election in November and even after his inauguration last month. Holder was asked if those raids represented Justice Department policy under the new administration.

"Shortly after the inauguration there were raids on California medical marijuana dispensaries. Do you expect these to continue?" the reporter asked, noting that the president had promised to end the raids in the campaign.

"No," Holder responded. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy." (Watch the video here.)

Nearly 75 million Americans live in the 13 states where medical marijuana is legal. But because of the federal government's refusal to recognize state medical marijuana laws, dozens of dispensaries in California have been raided by the DEA, typically in over-the-top paramilitary-style operations. More than a hundred people are facing prosecution, sentencing, or are already imprisoned under draconian federal marijuana laws because of their roles in operating dispensaries.

"There has been a lot of collateral damage in the federal campaign against medical marijuana patients," said Steph Sherer, medical marijuana patient and executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation's largest medical cannabis advocacy organization. "We need to stop the prosecutions, bring the prisoners home, and begin working to eliminate the conflict between state and federal medical marijuana laws."

At an ASA press conference hastily called for Thursday afternoon, Sherer elaborated. "I'm overjoyed to finally hold a press conference with some great news," she said. "Today is a victory and a huge step forward in what has been at times a cruel and tragic period. My outrage over the raids was shared by millions of Americans, and now our collective voice has been heard in Washington. We look forward to working with the Obama administration to harmonize the conflicts with state laws once and for all."

Charlie Lynch (from
But for some patients and dispensary operators, the damage has already been done. Larry Epstein operates a legal medical cannabis dispensing collective in Marina Del Rey, California, that was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on February 4, despite President Obama's statements on the campaign trail indicating a change in federal policy.

"We had been operating as a legitimate cooperative dispensary per California law for a number of years," said Epstein. "But the DEA came in here as if we were operating an illegal drug cartel. They stole all our property, all our product, and froze our bank accounts. Now, we can't pay our taxes; that's part of what they stole. It's devastating when they do those types of actions, never mind the hundreds of patients who rely on our facility to get their medicine."

Heather Poet operates a medical cannabis dispensing collective in Santa Barbara, California. The Justice Department has pressured her landlord to evict the collective using threats of prosecution and civil asset forfeiture. Her case prompted US Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) to ask Attorney General Holder to stop any and all prosecutions of property owners in a February 16 letter.

"Our landlord has twice been threatened by the US Attorney for the Central District of California, most recently just last month," Poet said. "If he did not initiate the termination of our lease for the 'illegal use' of his property -- we were operating legally under California law -- they would begin forfeiture proceedings against his property. That's when I contacted Rep. Capps. Within a week, she had contacted ASA and begun working on that letter. We are so grateful and proud of her for working so quickly to protect our rights and those of our patients. This has been a real travesty for so many sick people in California who have had to worry. Now, thousands of people will be able to breathe easier."

One person who isn't breathing easier just yet is Charles C. Lynch, a Morro Bay dispensary operator arrested and convicted on federal marijuana distribution charges. Lynch faces the dubious distinction of being perhaps the last person sent to prison under the federal war against medical marijuana; he faces at least a five-year mandatory minimum sentence when he is sentenced March 23.

"I became a medical marijuana patient in 2005 and decided we needed a dispensary here in the San Luis Obispo area so patients didn't have to drive 90 miles to Santa Barbara," Lynch explained. "Before I opened the dispensary, I called the DEA and asked them their policy. They told me it was up to the cities and towns, so I got a business license from the city of Morro Bay, and opened up on April 1, 2006. The mayor, the city attorney, and council members all came by to visit the facility. We even joined the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce. I did everything I thought was necessary to run a legitimate business."

But thanks to a recalcitrant local sheriff who, lacking any basis under state law to go after the dispensary, sicced the DEA on it, Lynch's dispensary was raided. "In March 2007, they raided me, took all my money and froze my bank account. They made it sound like I was selling drugs to children in the schoolyard. The city of Morro Bay reissued my business license -- the DEA had stolen it, too -- and I reopened for business. Two weeks later, the DEA threatened my landlord with forfeiture unless he evicted us for good, so on March 16, 2007, the dispensary closed for good."

That has been sufficient to slake the fed's thirst for vengeance in many dispensary raids: Trash the premises, steal the money and property, and drive the business out of existence. But in other cases, federal prosecutors wanted an extra pound of flesh and actually prosecuted dispensary operators. Charles Lynch falls into that unfortunate latter category.

"On July 17, 2007, I woke up to federal agents banging down my door with an arrest warrant for federal marijuana distribution charges," Lynch related. "I had a spotless record, but I had to post a $400,000 bond to get out of federal detention. The DEA and the sheriff did everything in their power to defame me, destroy me, and destroy my life. Now, I have been found guilty on five counts of distribution and await sentencing. I'm filing for bankruptcy, my friends are scared to talk to me because the feds are breathing down my neck. They've destroyed my life."

Clearly, Attorney General Holder's announcement Wednesday is a major breakthrough for the medical marijuana movement. Just as clearly, there are still messes to clean up and injustices to be righted. It is only when there is no one remaining in or threatened with federal prison for helping sick patients that the medical marijuana movement will have achieved real justice.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Wonderful wonderful news. This is heartening.

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 2:54am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

So nice for Holder to throw us a bone by stopping the busts of Medical Dispensaries by the Federal Government. But in order to defund the gangs and cartels Marijuana MUST become legal. And I think this can be done by years end. Please watch and redistribute the following line/video as far as humanly possible. Still awaiting Borden's critique of the MERP Model which treats Marijuana just like home beer production: no taxes and no regulation.

Re-Legalize Marijuana Now, Obama (1)

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 12:10pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Since 13 states have recognized that cannabis is a medicine and is safe to use under medical supervision it is high time that the federal government remove cannabis from Schedule I. By definition a substance cannot remain in Schedule I if it has accepted medical use. Now that the federal government is recognizing that states have the right to determine accepted medical use it is only logical that they would go one step further and remove cannabis from Schedule I.

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 12:21pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I just got out of almost 4 years of prison for marijuana and just saw my probation officer and i have at least 3 years of probation to do. Still all of it was worth it to attain our liberty. I speak as a person who has been active in the legalization movement for over 40 years. Keep pushing for the cause there is a lot more to do!

Don Meinshausen

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 4:10pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is still being surpressed and threatened by prohibitionists and the war mongers that profit from the travesty known as illegal marijuana prohibition!

Sounds like you're ready for the next round... while most haven't begun to fight yet!

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 7:52pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Stick with us, you as many others have a valid civil rights claim for kidnapping/extortion by a criminal government.

Let us all keep up the good fight!

You to should start a blog

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 10:13pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Prohibitions create an easy way for terrorists to start wars for socioeconomic plunder based stock market insider trading scams,and secretly take over governments. This is why all the politicians,petrochemiceutical drug corporation c.e.o. s,police,and anyone who sponsors these fraudulent wars and prohibitions are about to be sentenced to the prisons that they built from an illegal drug trade which was known from the beginning to happen if unconstitutional prohibitions and drug scheduling exist. You politicians can keep flapping your gums but you and all your prohibitionist ilk are to the majority of us in america; hell on the whole planet, a fraudulently occupying terrorist regime that every countries military should destroy. Thats right ! instead waging war against Afghanistan,Iraq,etc the military forces of this planet should completely wipe out all these unconstitutional prohibitionist occupiers and end their reign of terror for good !

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 4:38pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I'll second that... high crimes don't commit themselves... they are committed by criminals in, or lusting for, high places.

And we can start with the current reigning vice president Joe 'the regular shmow' Biden for his high crimes... against inalienable rights!

End Prohibition or Perish... should be our Battle Cry!

"Truth is Treason in the Kingdom of Lies" - Ron Paul

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 8:01pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Yes indeed End Prohibition or Perish ! Everyone all over the world knows prohibition was started and is operated by terrorists posing as law enforcement. The military should be waging war against the prohibitionists instead of Iraq and Afghanistans people! Death the prohibitionists forced war mongering religious cult !

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 8:47pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Honorable citizenship, this is the one true gift from all the work to end prohibition. The fear factor is gone for thirteen Union States with State Programs to support patients using a legally, prescribed drug.

To President Obama, your the hero of all who would literally have died without products such as hemp oil, extracted from the plant itself, not the seed oil that is legal to retail in products like hand lotions and food products.

"President Obama, we're doing our best to contact and work with our State Leaders all accross America in voiced constant pleading as Medical Advocates of Marijuana Cures in cancer and many other dreaded illnesses that marijuana is simply a life giving substance."

The world is silenced in humbled thanksgiving for such a wonderful gift to critical and all future patients who now will live! The sad thing is that no one's set aside a special holiday for the Presidency on this one, well, "How can you not love President Obama now?" Rick, Cookeville, TN.

Tennessee State Bills SB 209 & HB 368, please contact Congressman, Bart Gordon and tell him the debate in Congress has ended. Support new States legalization programs to help save lives now.

What is it about saving lives opponents just don't get?

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 11:21pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

This seems like good news, but I don't think we've seen the end of this yet. Holder is no friend of ours, and being a lawyer, he slickly avoided stating explicitly what he seemed to reluctantly endorse. After the reporter's question, one might assume that what Holder said was that the raids would end, and that is now the policy of the U.S. government. If, indeed, that is what Holder meant, he took pains to avoid being explicit. Further, Holder was careful to distance himself from the policy by claiming a version of "I am only obeying orders." "[Pres. Obama] was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy."

Holder is a person who bears watching, in my view. Once the counter-pressure gets hot, as it will, he will throw us under the bus in a heartbeat, if he can.

Richard Kefalos
Los Angeles

Sat, 02/28/2009 - 12:57am Permalink
David Dunn (not verified)

All things hemp should be exempt from federal interference. It's a matter that correctly belongs to the states to regulate, and if deemed appropriate, to tax.

Hemp is an article of enough importance that should receive extraordinary support in its favor. Or so wrote Alexander Hamilton in his 1791 report to Congress on manufactures. Of hemp, Hamilton wrote:

This is an article of importance enough to warrant the employment of extraordinary means in its favor.

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.

— Thomas Jefferson

Sat, 02/28/2009 - 3:50pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

We respectfully request Law Enforcement Against Prohibition to aquire constitutional military assistance to arrest/and/or remove all unconstitutional war monger/prohibitionist/plunder based law enforcers before they commit another 911 styled insider trading insurance scam at everyones expense but their own. Thank you for your service,dedication and all around existence.

Sat, 02/28/2009 - 6:11pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

You know who you are in local,state,and federal positions who were warned before 911 attacks that the .D.E.A. the taliban,Marvin Bush and the anti -drug cops among many others were planning 911. Here you all are sitting on your hands taking orders from the same unconstitutional fraudulent bosses we warned you about. I guess you must enjoy the unconstitutional dictatorship power as much as the wall street insider traitors that fraudulently installed these fraudulent leaders. We know that as unconstitutional terror/plunder based leaderships fail they use terrorism for stock market insider trading and insurance fraud for profit as they are planning again. While local,state,and federal workers who were warned still do not believe or want to believe that their co-workers/bosses who run the government with unconstitutional wars and prohibitions were involved in the 911 attacks. More attacks are being plotted,and you know this! More attacks by the same frauds in power. We know that this is why you must team up with L.E.A.P. now. You have the chance to at least evacuate the buildings this time ,maybe even stop the next attacks if you end your complacency !

Sat, 02/28/2009 - 8:34pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

they have too try to make us look stupid somehow , I can`t belive they would try like that, but look at everything else they do to make us look bad..

Sun, 03/01/2009 - 2:28am Permalink
mlang52 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I think it just points out the fact that we must be very discerning in what we might choose to say on this forum. There are always people on both sides of the subject that can look a little unbalanced. This guy has been asked to give us (some of us commenters) links to his purported "charges" against the DEA/Dynacorp, and several other "criminal groups". He did not comply!

Now he has a new task of asking for LEAP to intervene against these groups, posted on almost every article on the blog. He tries to influence us through his, almost, unintelligible postings. He is getting a little old. But, I am the first to defend his right to free speech. But, I, also, reserve the right to not believe what he says. I don't even try to read the posts any more. They are not worth the effort. Some of this person's posts are put in all caps. Some people find that annoying, too.


Sun, 03/01/2009 - 10:44am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

we showed them evidence from their own operation northwoods how people in government leadership roles in america invented alciada . and their drug corporations were/are sponsoring terrorism. we circle the globe anonomously trailing d.e.a. agents finding out what they do and why. the links you want are ones you already know to go to any way as you are not in 1st grade. we specifically told local leaders who we thought would listen and intervene to stop the terrorist attacks. it is not unreasonable to ask for help when help is needed. the majority of people in america and the whole world wants these wars and drug wars to end. we find no shame in crying out endlessly for help until there are enough people to send a very special eviction notice to unconstitutional branches and agents of government which use terror and plunder. bin ladens real name is tim osman go to here from Jesse Ventura Willie nelson and many others. we are very serious and know that it is totally possible to arrest/remove unconstitutional entities such as the d.e.a. as they are not legitimate. they are frauds any hoo i apologize for causing you any undo stress. simple anonymous bombardments of requests to end plunder clog the communication lines with this until everyone has no other choice but to remove all unconstitutional bullies from power over anyone! i didnt mean to hurt you and ganja is healing! and i cannot stand the d.e.a. organic herbs organically grown fair trade to all and blessings and love

Sun, 03/01/2009 - 5:40pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Government analysts monitor internet chat/chatter for consensus content so keep chattering and keep blatantly rejecting manufactured consent to terror and plunder based leaders !

Sun, 03/01/2009 - 7:10pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Read the post . none of it looked pro d.e.a. there is alot of freedom of information act info that points to the d.e.a. 911 attack involvement. Even the d.e.a. giving the taliban 41 million dollars to fight the so called drug war 2 months before 911 attacks. and joe biden sending money to i.s.i pakistan so right back at you with the you must be d.e.a. shit. theres a whole lot more evidence that shows terrorist and plunder connections to all levels of every government. were not just gonna keep bending over and getting raped in the ass by politically correct complacency. so stay out of our way if you think politically correct pussyfooting around is gonna end wars and drug wars its not. prohibitionists are terrorist implants that dont fucking listen to reason. now good day !

Sun, 03/01/2009 - 7:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Ladies and Gentlemen (or dudes, if you will):

Please, PLEASE! Let's all stay focused on the issue here: We have gained at least a small victory in the prohibition of Marijuana. We have a President who has instructed our Attorney General to cease raids on Medical marijuana dispensaries.

We don't need to worry about or even bring up Bush, 9/11, etc. We need to focus on 1) Taking Medical Marijuana NATIONAL 2) Making sure that President Obama continues to support Medical Marijuana

We ALL need to send LETTERS (not emails...they just don't have the same impact) to the White House, thanking President Obama for his courageous stand on this issue.

THAT will go a LONG way towards gaining further support from him for this, and will encourage him to continue.

This is NOT an easy issue for him: There are tons of people/organizations on the left and the right who are giving him hell for this. We need to let him know that we are all very appreciative, and will stand behind him on it. We need to know that the AMerican PEOPLE stand behind him on this. We need to make sure that he and the rest of our elected leaders know how we feel- that we are POSITIVE about this, and want to move forward. That we will support all of them that support US in this.

Sun, 03/01/2009 - 8:52pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Definitely, we should send a thank-you note to President Obama; that's an excellent idea. I can imagine the pressure he's under from the family and police groups to unleash the DEA. We must do everything we can to help him. A thank-you is a start.

Mon, 03/02/2009 - 2:15am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

This is what I wrote to the President:

Dear President Obama,

First of all I want to congratulate you, and ourselves, for our great good fortune that you are our President.

But what I really want to thank you for is that you have ended the DEA raids on the California medicinal cannabis dispensaries. This means so much to so many people, and I thank you most sincerely for your humanity, intelligence, and compassion. I still almost can’t believe that you really are our President! I have to pinch myself to be sure I’m not dreaming!

Thank you, Sir, thank you, thank you.

Richard Kefalos
Los Angeles

Mon, 03/02/2009 - 2:41am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

WTF.... why did it take so long??? Every day we hear all kinds of misleading info on Marijuana. There are a lot of people out there that still believe that it CAUSES all kinds of medical/mental disorders, and they don't even bother to question what is told to them. To this day there has NEVER been a full study done on this herb. Not for lack of trying but the government just wont give in... I believe mainly because they are afraid that the truth will come out and the people of this great country will be pissed to find out that they have been lied to for over 50 yrs (maybe more). And it just bothers me because my kids come home from school and say silly things like mommy/daddy your going to die, my teacher said.... are you kidding me. I have been ingesting it for over 20 yrs and not even my doctor can find any ill affects. That makes children tend not to believe that those other drugs they were told about by the school aren't really as bad as they say. I truly believe that if we only told the truth about drug use kids wouldn't get into trouble as much with drugs. Kids are way smarter then what we think. We just need to make sure they get the truth. I sure hope they change the update the CRAP they are feeding these kids. MAYBE that should be something we all should ask our new president for..... write him and tell him. End the war on Marijuana!!!!!

Mon, 03/02/2009 - 4:23pm Permalink
John Daniel (not verified)

I remember reading about a registered medical marijuana grower in California who was imprisoned for growing by the feds. I don't think he had a fair trial because the defense was not allowed let the jury know he was growing legally under California law and was growing for cancer patients.

I thought that it was unfair then and now. Hopefully things will improve with this new policy.

Tue, 03/03/2009 - 4:06pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

A new Bastille Day for the new world order grows near! Pass it on. Disgruntled military from every country are about to eliminate all wall st,d.e.a.,petrochemical drug corporate government hostage takers of the globe. the first to be destroyed will be d.e.a.,merck,pfizer,bayer,d.a.r.e.,wall st. insider trading by plunder racket. And their is not a fucking thing the new world order can do to stop it! Now that the worth of global money systems is proven to be fraud so has unconstitutional plunder based terrorism promoted as legal. Remember ; military people were once civilians and military people love their civilian family and friends. Thanks to internet communications the lowest ranks are smarter than the intelligence communities attempt to hide the terror and plunder based hijacking of earths people from wall streets attempted abuse of power pimping. The mainstream news which refuses to report how the majority of people on earth hate what the plunderers are doing and how every countries military are being secretly manipulated by war for profit based minority of cruel hidden dictators. War is not a game > and when military troops even ones who are supposed to be enemies find out that the bosses of each opposing force are secretly in cahoots well thats when hell is released on the new world order !

Tue, 03/03/2009 - 4:45pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

We do not recognize the D.E.A. as human. Only an invasive unknown species of mutated multicolored hitlers would attempt to continuously do global petrochemical drug/oil corporations bidding as they do. its time to isolate or destroy the D.E.A. completely!

Tue, 03/03/2009 - 5:54pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Chandra Levy had overwhelming evidence against global military industrial complex/war against drugs,wall street,insider trading profit by intimidation and violence scam which she was about to bring forth just before she died; just like Paul Wellstone.

Tue, 03/03/2009 - 6:39pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Will kill the new world order ! everyones so sick of terrorist plunderers posing as government leaders that the people are becoming equally and oppositely as vicious as the new world order at the same time sick of living under constant violence from unconstitutional leaders from the new world order. you local police that do the new world orders bidding ! what the hell ? Is the Federal reserves fake money that important to you ? same goes for military commanders that carry out new world order plunder and terror what the fuck !? Apparently addiction to bullying by subverting the people and the constitution is tougher to break than petrochemiceutical addiction.

Tue, 03/03/2009 - 8:27pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Hey these war on drugs frauds are still trying to limit the number of high potency medical marijuana plants we need to grow to open our cannabis/hemp composite lumber,fiberboard,and paper mills up here in the pacific northwest. I thought these frauds were supposed to disband ? Whats up ? These unconstitutional cult leaders we found out are Wall street drug corporation implants that need to get out! We could create thousands of jobs but were being attacked by a foreign terrorist entity . s.o.s.

Thu, 03/05/2009 - 5:58pm Permalink

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