Calif. Congresswoman Lois Capps Takes on DEA Intimidation


Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) sent a letter to newly appointed Attorney General Erik Holder today asking the Department of Justice and the Office of the US Attorney to “immediately suspend any and all enforcement actions against said property owners in California who lease property to medical cannabis dispensing collectives in accordance with state laws.”

Representatives Capps’ letter follows renewed pressure on property owners in Santa Barbara County, who have been the victims of repeated threats of prosecution and asset forfeiture over the last year. The letter also follows a statement by White House Spokesman Nick Shapiro on February 4 indicating that federal medical cannabis policy would change under the new Administration.

Property owners all over California continue to receive letters from the DEA making as yet unfulfilled threats of prosecution and asset forfeiture, but the DEA and US Attorney’s office have been most aggressive in Santa Barbara County, the heart of Representatives Capps’ Congressional District.

Property owners here have received repeated threats – sometimes hand delivered by DEA Agent Darrell Sheets – and been summoned to private meetings with the US Attorney. On January 7, those property owners still renting to collectives received a final ultimatum, giving them just 45 days to evict their tenants or face the consequences,

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) took immediate steps to reach out to collective operators and property owners impacted by the Santa Barbara escalation last year, in hopes of building opposition to federal interference in the community and preventing evictions.

We arranged meetings at Representative Capps’ field office, while our staff in Washington, DC, worked with her office there and other Democratic leaders. That legwork paid off: there was a tremendous grassroots outcry when the newest threats came to light, and Representative Capps was poised to act!

Representative Capps’ courageous leadership is the result of hearing from her constituents, and having the credible information she needed to respond at the right moment. Grassroots support is a crucial element behind our strategic work in Washington, DC, and one of the fundamental strengths of ASA. A big part of our work in Congress and with the new Administration this year will be based on this grassroots/national synergy. Representative Capps’ letter is good evidence that we can be effective with this kind of geographically targeted organizing and sustained national coordination for strategic objectives.  ASA can bring activists together to form a strong national movement to achieve a significant impact on lawmakers’ opinions.

Never doubt the power that the grassroots puts behind our words in Washington, DC. We are starting to see the tangible outcomes of that power now. If we are successful, patients and property owners in Santa Barbara will be safe from federal intimidation – and the voices of millions of medical cannabis supporters will finally be heard in the Halls of Congress and the White House. Keep speaking up!


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