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Pot Shots

Prohibitionists Attack, Reformers Fundraise

by FRED GARDNER

Fierce rollback efforts by the Drug Warriors in California have been complemented by a defeat for reform lobbyists in Congress. Since June there has been a "huge upsurge" in asset-forfeiture cases against medical marijuana providers in the Eastern and Central Districts of California, says attorney Brenda Grantland. In one instance the bank accounts of a dispensary proprietor’s daughter -"who had nothing to do with the dispensary," according to Grantland- were seized.

In early July the DEA sent letters to more than 150 Los Angeles area landlords advising that they had rented to cannabis dispensaries. Putting landlords on notice is required under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 before the government can seize their property. How many clubs will be evicted remains to be seen -clubs pay much higher rents than other tenants, the chances of the feds moving against any given property owner are slim, and the ensuing lawsuits may be winnable.

DEA raids closed eight Los Angeles dispensaries this week; no arrests were made. Proprietors of dispensaries raided the week before in Bakersfield, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Corona, Riverside, and Palm Springs face federal cultivation-for-sale charges. DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen has characterized the raided clubs as "the most egregious traffickers." Meaning they were serving the most people.

Some of the raids evoked militant responses. In Los Angeles a crowd of more than 200 supporters assembled outside the California Patients Group on Santa Monica Boulevard. Their presence may have convinced the raiders not to arrest the staff and customers being detained within. In Corona, as DEA agents were taking down the "Healing Nations" dispensary, there was an outpouring of support on the street outside. The "boisterous and emotional" demonstration was described in the Inland News:

"With signs and chants and spontaneous cries, they invoked state law and patients rights, and berated federal agents and police. ‘What are the police going to do for people like me? Do they care that people are going to suffer?’ said Corona resident David Martinez, 45, who suffers from painful tumors and back problems and has patronized Healing Nations Collective since it opened in May 2006. Many others said that medical marijuana was the best treatment for their host of painful and life-disrupting conditions. ‘It gave me my life back,’ said 47-year-old Riverside resident Kathy Jones, who said a regimen of heavy painkillers taken for fibromyalgia and other conditions had previously left her incapacitated. ‘I’m not a druggie, I’m a patient,’ she said through tears.©˜

The Bakersfield Californian headlined its account of a protest "Medical Pot Users Storm Meeting." A DEA raid had closed the city’s largest dispensary, Nature’s Medicinal Cooperative, on July 16, and five smaller clubs quickly shut down in fear. On July 24, reported the Californian, "A large group of Kern County medical marijuana users and supporters demanded county supervisors uphold state law." They were incensed by Sheriff Donny Youngblood’s enforcing federal rather than state law by participating in the raid on Nature’s Medicinal Co-op. Protester Darriel Herron called on local officials to "stand up to the people who are trying to run us down."

Sympathy for the protest was conveyed by many county employees -members of the Service Employees International Union- who were attending the supes’ meeting in connection with their contract negotiations.

While the DEA was terrorizing medical-marijuana users in Southern California, Drug Czar John Walters flew into Redding to publicize an eradication program called “Operation Alesia.” It’s named after a battle in 52 BC at which the Roman Empire finally defeated the Gauls. (Walters’s father helped direct “Operation Phoenix” in Vietnam.) Operation Alesia involves 17 agencies, including the California National Guard. The crews arrive in Black Hawk helicopters and the campesinos fade into the forest, resulting in no arrests as of July 18, the date of Walters visit. The Redding Record-Searchlight reported that Walters said “the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn’t hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties. ‘Don’t buy drugs. They fund violence and terror,’ he said.”

Takes one to know one, they say.

Meanwhile, from their offices with the Beltway, leaders of the drug-policy reform movement spent most of July dispatching urgent appeals to “write your member of Congress” in support of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment (and send us money). The amendment would have banned funding for DEA raids on marijuana growers and dispensaries protected by state law. It has been the main focus of lobbying efforts by the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance, and others. It garnered 165 votes–only two more than it got last year, despite the influx of Democrats. Rob Kampia of MPP had the gall to send out a fundraising letter the next day calling it a “record vote.” (The real meaning of “write your member of Congress” is “pull your pud.”)

Our leaders who art in Washington fancy themselves brilliant public relations strategists. You’d think they’d want to appeal to Mexican Americans (13.5 million strong and very aware, politically). Yet they court the likes of immigrant-basher Dana Rohrabacher and glory in getting him as a co-sponsor for their unwieldy stop-the-DEA bill!

Last week Rohrabacher and Lou Dobbs outdid each other in demanding clemency for two US border patrol guards who shot an unarmed man in the back and then lied about what happened. The man had been caught trying to smuggle marijuana into the US and was fleeing in retreat when the guards opened fire. The INS pressed charges against them and Dobbs is outraged that a US government agency would consider an illegal alien marijuana smuggler a human being.)

Lou Dobbs (to Dana Rohrbacher) Congressman, you are a true patriot.

Rohrbacher: Lou, you are a great American

Lou: The American people can sleep at night because patriots like you are defending this country.

Rohrbacher: You are a defender of the American people, sir.