Medical Marijuana Patient Advocates Stage Rallies in MI & NV Against Federal Interference

January 10, 2011
Las Vegas, NV; Grand Rapids & Lansing, MI -- Angry but peaceful protests will be held this Wednesday in response to what patient advocates are calling an unnecessary escalation of federal interference in medical marijuana states. Protests are scheduled to occur at various times Wednesday in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as Grand Rapids and Lansing, Michigan, in response to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids that have occurred over the past 6 months in the two states. Most recently, fifteen patients and providers were arrested last week in Las Vegas as a follow-up to aggressive raids conducted last year. The Justice Department is also pursuing medical records for 7 registered Michigan patients, despite strong privacy provisions in that state's medical marijuana law.
What: Coordinated rallies in Las Vegas, Grand Rapids & Lansing to protest recent federal interference
When: Las Vegas at 12 Noon; Grand Rapids at 9am; Lansing at 1pm
Where: Las Vegas - Federal Building, 333 Las Vegas Blvd.
             Grand Rapids - Federal Courthouse, 110 Michigan St. NW
             Lansing - East steps of State Capitol, Michigan Ave. & Capitol St.

"It's time to end federal enforcement of local and state medical marijuana laws," said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana group. "Not only are the recent raids inconsistent with the spirit of the Obama Justice Department memo, but they are harmful and counterproductive to the full implementation of local and state medical marijuana laws." Despite an October 2009 Justice Department memorandum de-prioritizing federal enforcement in medical marijuana states, aggressive raids, arrests and prosecutions have continued unabated.

On January 6th, several dispensaries, cultivators, and referral services in Las Vegas were raided by the DEA, resulting in 12 arrests and the seizure of medical marijuana, money and other property. According to the DEA, the most recent arrests were connected to dispensary raids conducted in September of last year. Under the cynical moniker of "Operation Chronic Problem," the federal government is charging people with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution of marijuana, conspiracy to commit money laundering, distribution of marijuana near schools or colleges, possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking and failing to disclose or concealing information concerning Social Security benefits.

Last year's raids in Las Vegas occurred only two months after heavily armed federal agents, with the help of the national guard, raided multiple cultivators near Lansing, Michigan, with no evidence of state law violations. No charges were levied in the Michigan raids, but the federal government is now pursuing several private patient records from the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) as part of their investigation. Using privacy provisions in the state's medical marijuana law, the MDCH has so far refused to turn over any patient records, but a hearing is scheduled for 9am Wednesday (coincident with the protests) in Grand Rapids federal court before District Court Judge Gordon Quist. Similar federal subpoenas were rejected in 2007 by a district court in Oregon after the records of 17 patients were sought by the feds from the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

"There is absolutely no need for federal agents to be enforcing local and state medical marijuana laws," continued Woodson. "Enforcing such laws is not the purview of the federal government and allegations of local or state law violations should be prosecuted in state courts." As a result of the 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, defendants tried in federal court have no means to a medical necessity or state law defense. Historically, besides the direct harm inflicted on patients and providers, federal raids have had little effect overall. For example, despite more than 200 raids in California during the G.W. Bush Administration, the number of local distribution centers steadily increased during the same period.

Further information:
DEA petition to subpoena private patient records in MI: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/MI_DEA_Subpoena_Petition.pdf

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