August 03, 2007
Dan Bernstein, Columnist, Press-Enterprise (CA)
I never realized the Drug Enforcement Agency gets the summer blahs, just like everybody else. But I happened to be talking with a friend who knows all about this stuff.
"Most people think all the DEA does is bust up international cartels, crawl through tunnels, raid warehouses at major ports, take down drug lords, yadda, yadda."
"Sounds like a tough job."
"It is a tough job. Sometimes, they need a change of pace."
"Maybe they could go after drunk astronauts."
"Out of their jurisdiction. But they did launch Operation Low-Hanging Fruit."
"Never heard of it."
"Ever hear of medical marijuana dispensaries?"
"Low-hanging fruit. Everyone knows where these places are. Everybody knows what they do. They operate in broad daylight. In shopping centers! They might as well set up a booth in the DEA lobby. Oh, and the 'customers' aren't exactly armed and dangerous."
"So busting dispensaries is kind of a working holiday for the DEA?"
"You know how miserable it gets here in the summer. This is not the time to be rooting around in some ship hold, sniffing out Afghan opium."
"This is the time to be picking low-hanging fruit?"
"Now you're getting it. They make the busts. They make the headlines. And they get paid. Nobody gets hurt."
"Except maybe the people who can't get their marijuana."
"We're in a drug war. When you're in a war, there's always collateral damage."
"I've never thought of cancer patients that way before."
"Hey, I'm not saying those medical marijuana folks aren't feeling a little under the weather. AIDS, multiple halitosis or however you say it -- the DEA boys will be the first to tell you it's the pits. But it's not like those folks caught glaucoma from the DEA. The DEA's just enforcing the law."
"And we're right in the middle of summer."
"Think of the heat rash. And jock itch. To you and me, they're minor annoyances. To the DEA, they're occupational hazards. Those heavy vests. All that gear. You'll never hear a word of complaint. But you're not going to hear them gripe if they get sent to a marijuana dispensary in July, either."
"Air-conditioned offices, convenient parking, daytime hours. The people who get arrested usually have most of their teeth."
"I guess the DEA deserves a little R&R this time of year."
"Glad to see you're coming around. But it could be even better."
"There are only so many pothead dispensaries. Pretty soon they'll all be shut down."
"Then it's back to the tunnels, cartels and ship holds."
"Right. Too bad the DEA doesn't go after the real problem."
"The marijuana users! If it weren't for them, these dispensaries wouldn't exist."
"I see your point."
"Maybe they'd suck it up and live with a little pain if we booked them into jail and held them for a few days. Not that it would be pleasant to watch an epileptic do the perp walk."
"But it would keep the DEA in the low-hanging fruit business."
"Just get them through September. Then it starts to cool down."
Reach Dan Bernstein at 951-368-9439 or dbernstein@PE.com