War on Drugs Rages on, as U.S. Attorney Hounds Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

May 1, 2013

by Jeremy Leaming

Supposedly the Obama administration’s justice department has “bigger fish to fry” than people possessing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. The president’s statement to ABC News not long after his reelection regarded Colorado and Washington, where voters approved initiatives decriminalizing some amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

But during his first term, President Obama also said his administration would not follow the path of his predecessor in harassing and shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries in the states that have enacted medical marijuana laws. More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws. But late last year, Robert Wilbur reported that during its first three-and-half years the administration had “conducted more raids on state-licensed dispensaries than the Bush administration did in eight years.”

So while the Obama administration’s rhetoric regarding the so-called war on drugs has softened, its policies are still weighted heavily to tough-on-drug measures. A post earlier this week noted the administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy is continuing its strategies laid out in 2010, including allotting more money for tough-on-drug tactics.   

Reporting for Salon, Natasha Lennard focuses on the Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag who is “threatening landlords housing medical marijuana dispensaries with 40 years in federal prison.” Citing the East Bay Express, Haag has apparently been obsessed with the shuttering dispensaries and harassing landlords that house them is a part of the strategy.

California passed its medical marijuana initiative in 1996 with 56 percent of the vote. But because the Drug Enforcement Agency is stuck in 1936 – marijuana is a dangerous drug that will lead to “delinquent behavior” and “open the door” to other drugs — the federal government continues to spend boatloads of money and time on disrupting states’ efforts to regulate their medical marijuana industries.

As the East Bay Express notes, Calif. officials are pleading with the federal government to back off. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has asked the state to be permitted to regulate the industry “without the threat of new widespread prosecutions of medical providers.” In an interview with CNN last fall, the Express reported, Brown said, “It’s time for the Justice Department to recognize the sovereignty of the states. … We have a laboratory of democracy. We don’t always agree. … I believe the president and justice department ought to respect the will of these sovereign states.”

Leaving states to their own devices, of course, cannot always be a good thing. For instance when states seek to limit liberty, like denying same-sex couples the right to wed, that’s not at all a bit helpful to democracy. But generally progress can occur when states seek to expand liberty or protections of liberty.

University of Denver law school professor Sam Kamin in a guest post noted several actions the government could take to ease the tension between the federal government and the states on this matter. For instance, he wrote, “the government could move to reclassify marijuana as a less serious substance – permitting its medical use under some conditions – or could remove it entirely from the list of control substances.”

However, it appears, at the moment, the Obama administration is content to stick with the costly and failed war on drugs.  U.S. Attorney Haag may be bent on cramming our prisons with more non-violent offenders, but that’s a noxious strategy for it exacerbates mass incarceration. As a new Brennan Center report shows far too many people are imprisoned for non-violent offenses. And as the Department of Justice surely knows, minorities are disproportionately targeted for these low-level drug offenses.

6 thoughts on “War on Drugs Rages on, as U.S. Attorney Hounds Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

  1. Prescription drug abuse accounts for 75 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the nation.

    The death toll from prescription pill overdoses has more than tripled in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that more than 40 people die every day in the U.S. from overdoses of narcotic painkillers like hydrocodone, methadone and oxycodone. The prescription painkillers are responsible for more deaths than heroin (a Schedule I drug) and cocaine (Schedule II ) combined.

    Why is ‘big pharma’ not being prosecuted?

    I first tried marijuana when I was 21 years old. Now, 45 years later, I still smoke pot. To me, it is nothing more than a form of relaxation. And the beauty of the currently available ‘high octane’ weed, is that it is truly ‘one hit.’

    I can load my bowl with pot that would amount to the size a lttle larger than a BB…half the size of a green pea. Just last night I watched an older James Bond movie…Sean Connery in ‘Dr. No,’ while stoned.
    Who am I harming? Why is cannabis illegal in our ‘free’ country?

    I am 66 years old and have not taken a prescription medication in over 30 years. Has regular cannabis use enabled this? I have no idea.

    I am active…hiking, canoeing, camping, bicycling. My last hike was 11.5 miles…to the Confluence Overlook in Canyonlands Natl Park. Has cannabis enabled this? I don’t know.

    I do know that I am living proof that prohibitionist propaganda is a fallacy…a blatant lie.

    The worst experience I ever had with cannabis was spending 5 years in Federal Prison for a marijuana offense. What’s up with that?
    I wrote about the escapades that led to my imprisonment. The book:

    Shoulda Robbed a Bank

    I think you may enjoy it. Available at Amazon.com


  2. It’s all about the money and where it goes.

    I traveled extensively in Colombia, South America in the 1970’s, and very early 80’s. My reason for being there: to buy the best marijuana I could find for shipment to the United States.

    The people I dealt with were not the killers depicted by our government. They were Moms and Pops with families. And some of the nicest, most honorable people I have ever met.

    This is not a war ‘against’ drugs. This is a war for ‘control’ of the drugs.
    And the involved governments’ only concerns are, ‘Who gets the money.’

    Once these products are legalized, we can all live in peace. The quality of the product will determine its market.

    Just like lettuce and tomatoes.


  3. Both these gentlemen are right on! Marijuana is an amazing healthful herb and only being criminalized for momey. but the truth is out and cannot be hidden any longer. The fight now has the backing of the people who are no longer ignorant. But be assured, the money vultures are not ready to give up. As for those of us who have been fighting this atrocity of keeping the truth and the cure from the public, we have justice and honor and facts on our side. I personally have been using marijuana for 40 years and also never need a poison pill – at the age of 71 – I am agile, stable and completely healthy. Check out my website which has been around for over ten years and has a free service where I answer all and every question from people who want to have the real truth about marijuana. . Joan Bello, author of The Benefits of Marijuana, Physical, Psychological & Spiritual.


    • I copied the below comment from another website. I think the American veteran who wrote this sums it up very well:

      “I am a disabled Army Veteran and smoke marijuana strictly for medical purposes. I never smoked before I broke my back in the military and it hasen’t been a gateway to anything. I started smoking because of my cauda equina syndrome.
      I had a herniated disk in my lower back that compressed the nerves at the lower end of my spine (cauda equina nerves). The doctors couldn’t prevent permanent damage, so I am left with permanent pain that is so severe that it leads to vomiting on a consistant basis without my medacine (marijuana). The doctors prescribed me morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, oxycotton, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, etc… All of the above named meda…
      cines made me useless, I hardly knew what was happening around me. On top of that, they didnt help with the pain or the vomiting from the pain. I felt like bugs were crawling under my skin.
      After complaining about this for a while, friends and family handed me cannabis. I was reluctant at first, due to the stigma that goes along with it. After I gave it a try, I realized that it was far and away a better solution than any of the above named DRUGS. I had none of the issues with cannabis that I had with all those other PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS. I can function and carry on with my life. Marijuana has made me a better person and a far more functional parent and husband.”

      I think anyone who would deny this veteran comfort should be beaten with an ax handle and ran out of the country.
      Just my humble opinion.


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