Activists tell DEA it's time to cease and desist

June 05, 2002

Steve Brown, Desert Post Weekly ,

Medical marijuana activists nationwide are protesting the Drug Enforcement Agency's war on medical marijuana patients and suppliers today at more than 54 DEA offices across the country. Local activists, in conjunction with the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project of Palm Springs/Coachella Valley (MAPP), are presenting a request to Congresswoman Mary Bono's office asking her to do something to stop the DEA's raids on California's legal medical marijuana clubs. After presenting their request, MAPP will join other activists in a protest at DEA offices in Riverside.

MAPP will ask Bono to sponsor and support House Bill 2592, introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, which would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug (no accepted medical use) to Schedule II (available only through a doctor's written prescription). The bill, which has more than 30 sponsors in Congress, would end DEA raids on legal medical marijuana dispensaries that already require a doctor's recommendation for obtaining the medicine.

Activities at the Riverside DEA offices on the Americans for Safe Access National Day of Direct Action include an informational picketing and the posting of a Cease and Desist Order demanding the DEA comply with state laws authorizing the use and distribution of medical marijuana to seriously ill patients under the direction of a physician.

Since October 2001, armed DEA agents have raided medical marijuana clubs serving thousands of chronically and terminally ill patients in Los Angeles, San Francisco and most recently, Santa Rosa, seizing patient records, equipment, arresting some involved, and leaving patients reliant on the use of marijuana to turn to illegal sources on the street. A DEA spokesperson told Desert Post Weekly that the agency would not comment on upcoming raids, but noted that their future approach to legal medical marijuana in California would be similar to their current tactics.

"The public does not know about how the Justice Department and the DEA are working to overturn their vote to allow patients who have a doctor's recommendation to utilize marijuana for medical purposes," said Lanny Swerdlow of MAPP. "We cannot just sit passively by and watch the federal government trample our rights. We cannot sit passively by and watch cancer, AIDS, MS and many other seriously ill people be denied their medicine because of the myopic attitudes of officials in Washington D.C."

The day's protests are scheduled because of the expected ruling of the U.S. District Court for Northern California, which would pave the way for the DEA to raid legal medical marijuana providers not only in California, but also in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, where medical marijuana is legal under state laws.

Elsewhere across the country other protests, including some involving civil disobedience, are planned. Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, based on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., said he would be protesting today in memory of a friend.

"I do really believe that those of us who are healthy and can physically do these sorts of things have an obligation to do them," Mirken said. "I decided last week to join in the civil disobedience after getting a call from my friend Mary Lucey in Los Angeles. She is one of the victims of the raids in Southern California and is in difficult health right now, partly, I think, because of the stress and fright from the DEA's actions. She could not take her anti-AIDS drugs without medical marijuana."

Mirken called the DEA's targeting of medical marijuana dispensaries as "legalized torture" of those who rely on the medication. He is carrying a poster-sized photo of Lucey during the protest, and anticipates being arrested during the blockade of an entrance to DEA headquarters. Mirken voiced his support for asking Bono to help and recalled seeing Sonny Bono's anti-marijuana film "Marijuana" from 1968, in eighth grade.

"Mary's husband was no more convincing back then than in his career as a politician," Mirken commented.

"These raids are criminal," said Steph Sherer, executive director for Americans for Safe Access. "Nine states and 73 percent of the American public believe that medical marijuana should be safe and legal, yet the DEA is now working harder than ever to turn these patients into criminals."

With the Bush administration's attempts to connect the war on terror to the war on drugs, through the famous "if you buy drugs, you support terrorists" advertising campaign paid for by taxpayers, the connection is virtually nonexistent in the case of crackdowns on California medical marijuana clubs. One of the focuses of the legal providers of medical marijuana is to ensure quality and safety of the medication. Therefore, it is grown by or for the clubs by known growers, not black market sources.

Meanwhile, the Aiko Compassion Center in Santa Rosa is the latest in California to be raided by the DEA. The May 29 raid seized plants, cash, a car, a weapon, and resulted in the arrests of at least two individuals. The club was not only put out of business, but also was evicted from its location due to threats from the Department of Justice to confiscate the property if the club was allowed to remain, according to a report from The Press Democrat. About 100 medical marijuana patients were left without access to the medicine, including those with fibromyalgia, severe head injuries, and cancer, according to the newspaper.

The DEA's raid directly ties in with the protests today, Swerdlow said.

"Here is the federal government thwarting what the voters of California want," Swerdlow explained, noting a lack of press coverage of the Santa Rosa DEA raid statewide. "That's why you've got to do these protests. What do you have to do to get the media's attention that this is happening? People need to know."

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