Foolish and wasteful raids
January 18, 2007
EDITORIAL, Orange County Register (CA)
The storm-trooper-like raids Wednesday by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration on 11 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County were not only a waste of taxpayers' money – especially in an era of justified concern over terrorism – they amounted to a concerted effort to create misery among especially vulnerable people. If the raids and confiscation are all that come of this commando-like action, they will be exposed as simply efforts to intimidate sick people by a gang of thugs operating under color of law.
To be sure, there is some legal justification for the raids, given that marijuana possession and sale is illegal under federal law. However, that position is based on what we believe is a misinterpretation of the Controlled Substances Act, whereby drugs placed on Schedule 1, such as marijuana, are totally prohibited. We believe marijuana does not meet the Schedule 1 criteria. That proposition, though shared by many, has not been tested in court.
Secondly, California's law, thanks to the voters who approved Proposition 215 in 1996, allows the medical use of marijuana or cannabis when recommended by a licensed physician. The dispensaries raided Wednesday – especially the five in West Hollywood, where the local government has been especially supportive – were established to implement the will of the voters.
Many teenagers can find marijuana or tell you where it can be found in a few hours. However, many older people with illnesses that can be ameliorated with cannabis would have no idea of how to enter the black market. Dispensaries are not only places where they can get access to medicine to which they are legally entitled under California law, they are often social support centers where people can get education, advice and counseling.
As William Dolphin, communications director of Americans for Safe Access, told us, "These places operate openly, with addresses and phone numbers. If the DEA wanted to issue a cease-and-desist order they know where to find them." Instead they came in wearing masks and with cocked guns, calculated to create fear.
So far the DEA has not filed any charges against those it raided, it has only confiscated their property. If charges are not filed and the property not returned, the raid will be exposed as simply a foray into theft and intimidation, morally indistinguishable from an act of terrorism.