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No Pattern or Rules to DEA Attacks
Guest post written by James Anthony. James Anthony is a former Deputy City Attorney for Oakland and a LEAP member (www.leap.cc). He now serves as land use permitting counsel for better MCDs throughout the State of California and looks forward to a day when the federal government realizes it has better things to do with its resources than harass patients. You can reach him at [email protected]. Patients and advocates often ask if there's any pattern to DEA raids. This a common and understandable question--as human beings we want a predictable and sensible universe. And this natural impulse to seek patterns is exploited by all psychological terror groups in a number of ways. (I include the DEA as a psychological terror group because 1) they are losing the war on medical marijuana and must resort to ever more desperate tactics, and 2) because they are part of the US government which openly condones torture and preemptive warfare--clearly a dangerous and ruthless adversary). There are two basic ways to exploit this human desire for patterns: 1) Be utterly random--this generates fear and leaves the victim completely without any pattern to rely on--think of random car bombings and how demoralizing that must be, the only protection is to never go out in public or to leave the area. 2) Create the appearance of patterns and then break them. This is good because it leaves the victim eternally vigilant and seeking for and inventing non-existent patterns. In experiments with animals this is called "experimental neurosis." It is a proven method of driving mammals crazy and leads to fits and frenzies of self-biting, mania, and catatonia. The DEA and the US government are well aware of this dimension of psychological warfare. They truly believe it is a war and that we are the enemy. They are not interested in debating this issue or in allowing different states to try different approaches. To the DEA, we are evil and must be eradicated--or intimidated into surrender. Given all that, the DEA does three things: 1) it throws darts at a map (randomness), 2) it looks for maximum propaganda value (what story can they tell to make us look bad?--and those are indeed narrative patterns), and 3) individual offices in the various geographical areas have to justify their existence for continued funding and positive job evaluations (it is after all a job in a bureaucracy--once in a while, you got to do something), this leads to the "low hanging fruit" pattern. So we have the following patterns: 1) Randomness--to keep us all on our toes, and to keep us fooling our selves with silly stories like, "You only get busted if you . . . (fill in the blank: advertise, don't advertise, are public, are private, for profit, non-profit--it might make you happy but there are now examples to prove every such "rule" both true AND false--the DEA is very Zen that way). 2) Propaganda Narratives--front for legalization; front for criminal gangs; front for "able-bodied urban youth gangs" (code for young people of color); danger to the environment; "profiteers"; corrupters of youth; gonna getcha daughter; pot stronger than ever; grow houses gone amok; conspiracy; terrorist funders; etc, etc--all basically Reefer Madness Redux. Think of the recent 60 Minutes coverage which fell into this to some extent. Think of any DEA press conference and you will clearly see one of these narratives. 3) Low Hanging Fruit--who would you want to go after: a well-organized 100 million a year crack, heroin and meth distribution network (which can now be found in any part of America, rural or urban or in between, thanks to 30 years of ramped up prohibition)--or a bunch of peaceful medical cannabis advocates, sitting there with no violent inclinations at all and a sign hanging up saying Medical Cannabis--Come and Bust Us, We Will Lie Down on the Ground? Yeah, me too. So when you need to bump up your stats (or you need to justify that useless multi-agency task force's multi-million dollar budget that aint done jack all year), whip up a "year-long investigation" (what takes a year to figure out that they are selling marijuana in there? duh) and put on the flak jacket, round up the SWAT team and go kick some ass. Oh yeah, and extra bonus points if you can bust a person of color, or a youth, or someone with a record, or someone who's doing it right and actually balancing the books, generating a surplus and paying all their taxes--then you can use their financial statements against them (ask their CPA politely and s/he'll print them out for you)--and you can seize their bank accounts and literally pay tribute to your bosses (maybe in the tens or hundreds of thousands--oh, was that why they waited a year? So they could steal your money?), Hi Boss, the task force brought in $200K this morning--and rounded up some dangerous sick people who provide a medical service. Well, it's a job and the benefits are good--and the potheads NEVER shoot back. At least, those are the only patterns I see, but maybe I'm missing something. (Oh yeah, and I hear busts usually happen on Wednesdays. Go fishing on Wednesdays.) And, yes, I'm really sorry that I can't give you the "rules," so we never have to worry about being busted. The DEA is not rules-based. It is our enemy--distribute cannabis, and you are fair game for capture, torture, imprisonment, kidnapping, and loss of all property (the only thing left is attainder of blood-- where they curse your entire family name for all time to come, but give them a minute to work it out). Of course you can sweeten the odds: have your city government and neighbors love you, be white, sit in a wheelchair, change your last name to Bush, be extremely lucky, turn around three times counter-clockwise every morning and say the Hail Mary backwards. I wish I could add sincerity to the list, but I'm not quite that naive. Still, it couldn't hurt, as long as you're real with yourself about the rest of it. Here's my advice, which I give to every potential client at the first meeting: Don't do it (for all the reasons given above and more). And I totally understand that most of them walk away. That's a good thing. If they go for it anyway, I call that committed. And that's a good thing too. But just be real. And be smart. Anyone who operates a dispensary has an extremely high risk-comfort level, or you could say, is either a hero or a fool.
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