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DEA's War on California The Crackdown on Medical Marijuana

Bush’s Crackdown on Medical Marijuana

by Heidi Lypps

The month of September has seen a dramatic escalation of the War on Drugs in California, with DEA raids on two leading medical marijuana dispensaries. On September 5th, DEA agents arrested Valerie and Michael Corral of WAMM (Wo/Men’s alliance for Medical Marijuana) and destroyed 150 marijuana plants intended for use by WAMM’s members, most of whom are terminally ill. On September 12, the Petaluma-based Genesis 1:29 medical cannabis dispensary was raided, and Robert Schmidt, the owner, was arrested by the DEA. On the same day, the agents also raided a garden in Sebastopol, which supplied the Genesis dispensary.

These raids are only the most recent actions in an escalating DEA campaign directed at medical cannabis co-ops in California. The Petaluma and Santa Cruz co-ops were among California’s most carefully law-abiding: each required members to have a doctor’s prescription, issued ID cards, and worked with local officials to shape agreements and protocols for operation.

The passage of California’s Proposition 215 in 1996 legalized marijuana for medical use with a physician’s prescription, but any use of marijuana remains a federal crime. President Bush promised in a 2000 campaign speech to leave medical marijuana as a states’ rights issue, saying “I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose.” The DEA’s recent actions, however, speak louder than those words; some are calling it a “War on the sick”, saying that the DEA has gone too far in targeting those who supply medical marijuana to the ill in compliance with California law.

Despite state law, since 2001 many groups and individuals supplying medical cannabis in California have found themselves raided and imprisoned by the DEA. These include the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, the Market Street Cannabis Club, CHAMPS, the Oakland Cannabis Resource Center, Santa Rosa’s Aiko Compassion Club, Steve and Michele Kubby, Ed Rosenthal, and others.

The recent busts were carried out without the support, or even the knowledge, of local law enforcement, prompting California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to question the incursion of federal agents; he requested a meeting with federal Drug Enforcement Agency director Asa Hutchison and Attorney General John Ashcroft to discuss the WAMM bust. “A medical marijuana provider such as the Santa Cruz collective represents little danger to the public and is certainly not a concern which would warrant diverting scarce federal resources,” says Lockyer.

Drug policy reform advocates fear that the raids in California are part of a carefully coordinated campaign on the part of the DEA to snuff out the burgeoning public opposition to the War on Drugs. Eight states – California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington – have legalized medical marijuana in some form, and Attorney General Ashcroft and other federal officials may be eager to break the growing movement before it gains further ground.

Drug policy reform advocates have planned actions in response to the DEA’s campaign to eradicate medical marijuana in California. In Santa Cruz, WAMM and the Santa Cruz City council have planned a version of the Boston Tea party for September 17th, where they will defy federal officials and distribute medical marijuana to gravely ill patients.

On September 23rd, the group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is sponsoring a rally at the state capitol in Sacramento to protest these heavy-handed tactics against critically ill patients, and advocate for compassionate use of medical marijuana. They ask all like-minded individuals to join them at the rally.

The ASA event will start with a press conference and rally at 9 am in front of the Federal Building (501 I Street, Sacramento) and will proceed to a demonstration at the Capitol starting at noon, and later a civil disobedience action at an undisclosed location.

Heidi Lypps is Director of Communications at the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics. She can be reached at: nemo@cognitiveliberty.org Notes

Further information about the September 23rd demonstration can be found on the Americans for Safe Access Web site: http://www.safeaccessnow.org

WAMM’s Web site: http://www.wamm.org/

Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s statement regarding the WAMM case: http://caag.state.ca.us/newsalerts/2002/02-103.htm

AP News on the WAMM raid: http://www.cannabisnews.com/news/14/thread14018.shtml

Santa Rosa Press-Democrat coverage of the Petaluma raid: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/local/news/13pot_a1.html