February 5, 2009

DEA Continues To Raid Pot Dispensaries

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents this week raided four Westside California medical marijuana dispensaries, angering supporters of pot for medicinal purposes who cited a comment made by President Barack Obama during his bid for the presidency last year.

DEA agents seized more than 400 pounds of marijuana and other cannabis infused items along with about $10,000 cash, according to special agent Sarah Pullen, spokeswoman for the DEA, adding that no arrests were made.

The raids prompted outrage among advocacy groups including the Drug Policy Alliance and Americans for Safe Access.

The Drug Policy Alliance posted several "sample call scripts" in hopes that medical pot supporters would call President Obama to ask that he put a stop to dispensary raids.

One sample script reads: "I just read that the DEA made several raids recently on medical marijuana patients and providers in California. I'm calling to urge President Obama to put a stop to this."

Another says: "I'm mad that my tax dollars are being used to harass cancer and AIDS patients."

And yet another makes reference to a comment made by Obama last year in which he said: "If it's an issue of doctors prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma or as a cancer treatment, I think that should be appropriate because there really is no difference between that and a doctor prescribing morphine or anything else."

"I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," Obama told the Mail Tribune newspaper in Oregon in March.

The White House said it expects raids of dispensaries to end once Obama selects a new head of the DEA.

"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," said White House spokesman Nick Shapiro.

"There has been no direction as to a change in how we ... enforce federal law," said Pullen when asked to respond to the comments made by Mr. Obama.

She said agents have conducted 30 or 40 similar raids in the past several years, many of which resulted in prosecutions.

Although 12 states have voted to approve medical marijuana use since 1996, the federal government still doesn't recognize this due to a 2005 US Supreme Court ruling that stated that the federal government may still continue to enforce U.S. law barring the cultivation, possession and use of cannabis for any purpose.

Stephen Gutwillig, California head of the Drug Policy Alliance, told Reuters that the latest raids were evidence of a lag in new policy directives from the new administration.

"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," he said.

Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington said, "The DEA shouldn't need a memo from the White House to know that undermining the will of California voters is a waste of taxpayer money."


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