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Posted by on Jun 23, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

Federal Government’s War Against Medical Marijuana Begins

If you wondered whether the federal government would REALLY go to war and go after people who are using marijuana for medical purposes after being armed with a Supreme Court decision it seems you have an answer here in California:

Federal agents executed search warrants at three medical marijuana dispensaries on Wednesday as part of a broad investigation into marijuana trafficking in San Francisco, setting off fears among medical marijuana advocates that a federal crackdown on the drug’s use by sick people was beginning.

About 20 residences, businesses and growing sites were also searched, leading to multiple arrests, a law enforcement official said. Agents outside a club in the Ingleside neighborhood spent much of the afternoon dragging scores of leafy marijuana plants into an alley and stuffing them into plastic bags.

“The investigation led the authorities to these sites,” the law enforcement official said. “It involves large-scale marijuana trafficking and includes other illicit drugs and money laundering.”

And, yes, there is a Supreme Court ruling. But right after the ruling there had been speculation that the federal government might not send agents after groups providing medical marijuana or terminally ill patients.

(This was inadvertantly cut earlier:)

The issue here is a tricky one. There has always been the lingering suspicion that some of the people who said they were growing it for medical use weren’t, or that some who said they were using it for medical use realy didn’t. But before the Supreme Court ruling the benefit of the doubt went with the doctors and patients — because of marijuana’s reported benefits in relieving excruciating pain. With the Supreme Court ruling — and a general trend — scale has now tipped against giving that benefit of the doubt. There had also been at least lip service to the idea of more limited federal government.

However, if you look at the whole thrust of the administration and some GOPers in Congress (see our earlier post on the flag burning amendment) the whole thrust of the federal government apparatus now is going in the direction of MORE and MORE federal government — more pro-active federal government. Just keep reading this New York Times piece:

In a separate investigation, a federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted a doctor and her husband on charges of distributing marijuana at the doctor’s office in Cool, a small town in El Dorado County.

The doctor, Marion P. Fry, and her husband, Dale C. Schafer, were arrested at their home in nearby Greenwood and pleaded not guilty in federal court in Sacramento to charges of distributing and manufacturing at least 100 marijuana plants. The authorities said in a court document that Dr. Fry wrote a recommendation for medical marijuana to an undercover agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration even though there was a “lack of a medical record,” and that her husband provided the agent with marijuana.

The raids and arrests were the first large-scale actions against marijuana clubs and providers since the Supreme Court upheld federal authority over marijuana on June 6, even in states like California, where its use for medicinal purposes has been legal since 1996. The raids involved agents from federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the Secret Service.

Note, too, that the DEA rep makes no bones about how the agency views its mission on this issue — so it’s likely there will be a lot more operations:

“We will not turn a blind eye to serious and flagrant disregard of federal law,” Gordon Taylor, an assistant special agent in charge of Drug Enforcement Administration office in Sacramento, said in a statement. “There may be those who think we can disregard the court and Congress. D.E.A. will not be among them.”

And the reaction?

The raids angered and alarmed advocates of medical marijuana, some of whom stood on the sidewalk outside the clubs in San Francisco as federal agents worked inside.

“This is an affront to patients and should not be happening,” Kris Hermes, legal director of Americans for Safe Access, a marijuana advocacy group, said outside a storefront club that nearby residents said was used to grow marijuana not distribute it.

Actually, he’s wrong: the court did in fact rule. The government has a right to act. The question has been whether this was a BIG ISSUE to the government — and whether the government would use its resources in a time of continued drug problems at the border and concerns over whether immigration loopholes are leaving the U.S. open to a terrorist attack to go after people using marijuana on a doctor’s orders. Read THIS and you’ll see that it is a big issue to this government:

Mr. Hermes said he could not say if the raids were a result of the Supreme Court ruling, but called it “unacceptable” that federal agents were accompanied by the San Francisco police because the city several years ago declared itself “a safe haven” for medical marijuana users.

Several blocks away, agents seized computer records, medical files and marijuana plants at the Herbal Relief Center on Ocean Avenue. A security gate across the entrance had been pulled open, and a lock lay cut open on the sidewalk.

“They came here before we even opened,” said Van Nguyen, 27, who said the dispensary had been in operation about five years and had the records of several thousand patients.

A spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department, Sgt. Neville Gittens, said in a statement that its officers “did not take part in any investigation of these clubs or take any enforcement action against these clubs.”

In other words: the heat is coming from the federal government, which has chosen to put its time, energy and money into this issue.

So the new war on drugs — now waged against users of medical marijuana — appears to have begun.

We wonder how Republicans who have advocated less government will react to reports such as this. We suspect it will not be the last.

UPDATE: An AP report has the following quote which again underlines the fact that if this federal government has a power, it full intends to use it:

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown in Sacramento said the Supreme Court ruling “lays to rest any question whether federal authorities have jurisdiction.”

So on any kind of legislation or court decision, those who may oppose it and assume that it’ll just be there on the books without enforcement may be in for an unpleasant surpise.

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