Under Obama, DEA Raids Again, This Time in Force

February 03, 2009
Today the ASA office spent the better part of the afternoon responding to what's become the same old song and dance from the Drug Enforcement Administration.  We confirmed two simultaneous raids by DEA agents on L.A. medical cannabis dispensaries this afternoon, though we had word that there may have been as many as four.  I myself spent the afternoon on the phone with people who were very angry, people who were devastated; defeated, and people who were genuinely terrified that the federal agents would come to their homes tomorrow, knock on their doors, put handcuffs on their wrists, and take them away for the rest of their lives. For 8 years under the Bush Administration, DEA had developed a policy to reconcile the difference between the federal laws they enforce and those passed by voters and state legislatures in California and 12 other states.    The policy?   Opportunity. They knew that state laws allowed people to grow and provide cannabis to others who were qualified to use it to treat an illness, cure a disease, calm a sideeffect of a treatment like chemotherapy or vicious anti-viral medications, or ease the pain at the end of their lives.    They knew that the state law allowed people to come together to provide this plant to those who needed it, that they would do so publicly, and that it would leave them open to being treated like our country's worst drug king-pins - under federal law anyway.  They would work with city governments, advertise to the community for those who needed it, in good faith help patients who wanted to get cannabis from a safe place rather than on the street from a drug dealer.  And they would do all of it out of a clearly marked building; number in the phone book, address on the internet, open and available for those who needed it. For the DEA it was like shooting fish in a bucket. No investigations, no real work, all they had to do is show up, break down the door, smash all the glass, destroy the security cameras of those who would willingly let them in if they asked, point semi-automatic machine guns at men, women, and children when they came to their homes... throw them to the ground, knee on the back, boot on the neck, and take all the medicine in open display cases that had been grown by regular people protected by their state laws to do just that.   Some would laugh on the way out.  Some would leave tasteless and vicious notes like, "All Hippies Die" for the workers to find as they rummaged through what was left of their property. Then they would bring charges, take them to court, and not allow a word in front of a federal jury about the laws with which they complied, they mayor who came to visit the collective, the business association that saw them as valued members of the community, the scores and hundreds of people struggling through cancer, HIV, terrible pain, mental illnesses, and various other afflictions for which doctors across the state had said that  - yes indeed, cannabis could probably help. And then these people were sent to prison.  Where they sit today. This is what the Bush Administration directed its DEA Administrators Karen Tandy and Michelle Leonhart to do to American citizens.   Here in the United States of America, this is the reality we live everyday. I don't know what the Obama Administration will do.  I don't know if he'll stop the raids, as he said he would on the campaign trail and after the election, or if he'll allow them to go on... and we'll be asked by the Democrats in power to just, well... bare with him a little while longer.  After all, he doesn't want to spend the "political capital" on our issue just yet, but he supports us deep down.  He'll come to bat for us when we really need it. Well we need it.  We need it now, and we need it today.  I understand the give and take of politics.  I understand that sometimes "now is not the right time".  And I know that our struggle feels like it can't blow the most important chance for basic protections we've had in over 30 years.  I even understand "means and ends".  I understand all that.  But I also know that when it comes down to Charles, Adele, Mickey, Dan, Dustin... politicians make a choice.  And if that choice is "political capital", then there are people who are going to suffer and suffer bad.  And they had better believe that. I don't know what our President will do.  My heart is desperate to trust him; but I think its desperate to trust any politician who gives a nod that he or she might recognize the vast evidence of the profound medical breakthroughs in this plant.  After all its been now almost 40 years since the plant was placed in the fateful "Schedule I: No Medical Value".   I don't know what he'll do, but I do know one thing: this plant has got a long and bright future of exciting medical discoveries ahead of it.   And as the science continues to come out, there is going to be a lot of shame to go around and a lot of people who don't want to own up to the suffering they helped cause.   But I for one am not going to easily forget the ones who stood by and let this happen.  I won't be spiteful, but I will remember. And I also know that if President Obama does help us, it will not be because we deserved it, but because we demanded it. Call his comment line during office hours (M-F, 9am-5pm) and tell him how you feel: (202) 456-1111 And while you're at it, call the new Attorney General, Eric Holder, too: (202) 353-1555 Here's a script or speak from the heart: "Hi, my name is ___________.  The DEA just raided multiple L.A. medical cannabis dispensaries, despite President Obama's pledge to end federal threats, intimidation, and interference in states that have medical cannabis laws.  This needs to STOP!  Please understand that we're suffering and living in fear of our own DEA.  Please help us and stop these raids." Please be respectful on the phone and know that you're speaking to volunteers, but if you do feel a little angry... I will understand.
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