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UPDATE: Patients Speak Up in Montana.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on medical cannabis patients and advocates to speak up in opposition to paramilitary-style raids on medical cannabis patients, growers, and providers in Montana and California this week. The Obama Administration needs to hear that Americans do not support targeting legitimate patients, who use medical cannabis to treat the symptoms of AIDS, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, and other serious conditions. The President and Department of Justice must allow states to implement and regulate medical cannabis laws, while developing a comprehensive federal policy that protects safe and legal access for every patient.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided twenty-six medical cannabis facilities in Montana over a two-day period this week. This would be egregious at any time, but these raids were timed to coincide with an important vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bill that would repeal the state’s medical cannabis law. The bill died in committee on Monday, but the bills’ author, House Speaker Mike Milburn, vowed to reintroduce it on the floor of the Senate. A vote may be imminent.
It is no coincidence that the critical vote in the Senate will come right after shock-and-awe style raids statewide. Lawmakers and voters alike will be influenced by media reports suggesting widespread drug trafficking, money laundering, and the like. Conscientious citizens all over the country should be appalled by the fact that the DEA is so clearly used its federal police power to subvert the political process in Montana. Voters in Montana should also be asking which of their elected officials called in federal storm troopers when there were not enough votes to get the repeal bill through committee.
Montana was not the only state to see a federal crackdown this week. Two licensed medical cannabis collectives in West Hollywood, California, were raided by the DEA on Tuesday. Residents there are stunned, because West Hollywood is often cited as an example of a city that has properly regulated safe access to medicine. Its four legal collectives have business licenses, pay taxes, and operate under careful scrutiny. Was there some urgent threat to public safety that the Sheriff’s Department could not handle without federal reinforcements? Probably not. View more on the West Hollywood raids from Reason.tv.
The warrants for Tuesday’s raids in West Hollywood remain sealed, so we do not know yet why the DEA seems to have acted outside the guidelines outlined in a memo from Deputy Attorney General David Ogden in October 2009. Ogden wrote then that agents should not make medical cannabis enforcement a priority against “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Ogden’s memo was a watershed moment in the struggle for safe access, but we clearly have a long way to go to end federal interference and intimidation once and for all.
We must not give into complacency or the cynical view that the victims of this week’s raids were “doing something wrong.” We may never know the full story behind the raids. The US Attorney’s offices may or may not prosecute these cases, and if they do, no evidence or testimony about medical cannabis will be allowed in the federal courtroom. But we do know this for certain – until we harmonize federal law with the laws of the states that allow medical cannabis, every patient, grower, and provider is a criminal. That must change before we have the luxury of debating whether or not DEA raids are justified in any given case.
Americans must speak up in opposition to DEA interference in the Democratic process and the effort to implement and regulate medical cannabis laws. ASA calls on the Obama Administration to end federal raids, allow state and local regulation, and to finally develop a national policy to ensure safe and legal access to medical cannabis for everyone who needs it.