Last week, the Drug enforcement Administration (DEA) collaborated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to raid Organica, a medical cannabis dispensing collective (dispensary) in Los Angeles. The only excuse provided by authorities was that the dispensary had failed to pay sales tax — hardly a reason for federal agents to carry out a paramilitary-style raid.
Didn’t President Obama say, “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws?” Indeed, he did. However, when President Obama appointed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the policy shifted to going after “those people who violate both federal and state law.” The upshot is that federal agents can continue to raid medical marijuana providers as long as they allege that state laws have been violated. Not only is this inconsistent with President Obama’s original pledge, but it also allows the feds to conduct raids with impunity. This is no different than the aggressive tactics used by the bush Administration.
For what it’s worth, the Board of Equalization indicated this week that it has not referred any sales tax violations by Organica to local or federal governments. Even if it had, would the proper response have been a paramilitary-style raid or simply a civil sanction?
Then, on Friday, the FBI raided CannaMed of Denver, Colorado, a doctor referral service for medical marijuana patients. Apparently, the FBI was in hot pursuit of people engaged in bank and credit card fraud. According to the FBI, it had served search warrants on more than a dozen locations, including personal residences, auto dealerships and CannaMed. However, while searching CannaMed, the FBI allegedly “spotted marijuana plants” at an unaffiliated business in the same building.
Although the FBI found less than 100 marijuana plants, it conducted a raid on Alternative Medicine of Southeast Denver (AMSD) a neighbor of CannaMed, which provides medical marijuana to qualified Denver patients. The operators of AMSD told local Denver media that “The seizure effectively shuts the business down.”
One might ask the question, “why did the feds find it necessary to assist in or conduct raids in two medical marijuana states in a week’s time?” If enforcing federal marijuana laws in medical marijuana states is not on the President’s agenda, why are raids continuing to occur? Is it because President Obama has yet to appoint a new DEA Administrator? Or, is it because the President has no intention of backing off of the aggressive tactics we saw for years under President G.W. Bush?
We hope it’s the former. If so, we have only to await the implementation of a sensible federal policy on medical marijuana and a DEA Administrator that lets local officials deal with violations of state law.
We’re still waiting…