Releaf Magazine

DEA may be losing the war on marijuana politics

At the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum in Arlington, Va., an exhibit re-creates a head shop selling marijuana paraphernalia in the 1970s. (Evan Halper / Los Angeles Times)

For narcotics agents, who often confront hostile situations, Capitol Hill has been a refuge where lawmakers stand ready to salute efforts in the nation's war on drugs.

Lately, however, the Drug Enforcement Administration has found itself under attack in Congress as it holds its ground against marijuana legalization while the resolve of longtime political allies — and the White House and Justice Department to which it reports — rapidly fades.

"For 13 of the 14 years I have worked on this issue, when the DEA came to a hearing, committee members jumped over themselves to cheerlead," said Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, a pro-legalization group. "Now the lawmakers are not just asking tough questions, but also getting aggressive with their arguments."

So far this year, the DEA's role in the seizure of industrial hemp seeds bound for research facilities in Kentucky drew angry rebukes from the Senate's most powerful Republican. The GOP-controlled House recently voted to prohibit federal agents from busting medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws. And that measure, which demonstrated a shared distaste for the DEA's approach to marijuana, brought one of the Senate's most conservative members together with one of its most liberal in a rare bipartisan alliance.

How much the agency's stock has fallen was readily apparent in the House debate, when Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) denounced the agency's longtime chief.

Michele Leonhart, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. (Los Angeles Times)

"She is a terrible agency head," Polis said of Administrator Michele Leonhart.

The two had previously clashed over the DEA's insistence that marijuana continue to be classified as among the most dangerous narcotics in existence.

"She has repeatedly embarrassed her agency before this body," Polis said.

Leonhart, who declined through a spokesman to be interviewed, is not getting much backup from the White House.

This year, she complained that President Obama seemed alarmingly blase about what she sees as a pot epidemic. Her remarks to dozens of sheriffs gathered at a conference in Washington came soon after Obama told the New Yorker magazine that marijuana seemed no more dangerous to him than alcohol.

"She said, 'I am so angry the president said what he said and completely ignored the science,'" recalled Thomas Hodgson, the sheriff of Bristol County, Mass.

Her remarks were so frank, Hodgson said, that another sheriff who had been attending such meetings for three decades interrupted Leonhart to tell the crowd what a risk she was taking. The audience then gave her a standing ovation, Hodgson said.

Leonhart went on to complain about a softball game White House staff had participated in with marijuana advocates, and declared that one of the low points of her career had been seeing a hemp flag fly over the Capitol — a display Polis had requested.

When Leonhart left, Hodgson said, she got another standing ovation.

The enthusiasm from law enforcement agents suggests why Leonhart, a holdover from the George W. Bush administration, where she served as acting DEA chief, remains ensconced in her post even as more than 42,400 people have signed a petition demanding her resignation.

"The Obama administration has to walk this tightrope," said Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver. "The youth vote and a number of populous states are moving in one direction, and elements of law enforcement are not."

He added: "These are people who have spent their lives enforcing marijuana laws. To say we are going to let the states decide what federal law is, is difficult for them to swallow."

The DEA also is operating amid mixed signals.

Many lawmakers think marijuana should no longer be classified among the most dangerous drugs, but they're reluctant to vote to change federal narcotics law. And despite cautious acceptance of state legalization laws by the White House, its enforcement strategy is ambiguous. The statutes that guided narcotics agents at the height of the war on drugs to aggressively go after pot remain on the books.

After word spread in May that Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. had called Leonhart in for a private chat and admonished her to stop contradicting the administration, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) rushed to her defense.

Wolf accused Holder's office of a "Nixonian effort to pressure a career law enforcement leader into changing her congressional testimony."

Leonhart "has done an outstanding job leading this agency during a challenging time," Wolf wrote in a letter to Holder.

But that view no longer commands a clear majority in Washington, as the agency repeatedly has run into congressional opposition.

The usually unexcitable Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, reprimanded the DEA after it impounded 250 pounds of hemp seeds en route to the University of Kentucky from Italy. The seeds were to be used by researchers exploring the possibility of reintroducing the hemp industry in the U.S.

Hemp, the fiber of a non-psychoactive cannabis plant, can be manufactured into clothing and numerous other products. One thing it can't do is make a person high. Nonetheless, the DEA deemed the seeds a controlled substance.

McConnell said the agency was wasting limited resources on the seizure "at the very time Kentucky is facing growing threats from heroin addiction and other drug abuse."

Amid political pressure and a lawsuit from Kentucky's Department of Agriculture, the agency granted the university an expedited controlled-substances permit.

The hemp offensive bewildered even some longtime DEA allies.

"It is an unnecessary fight," said Robert Stutman, a retired director of the agency's New York division. "It doesn't affect the drug issue one way or another."

The hemp case also irritated Kentucky's other senator, tea party favorite Rand Paul, who signed on to sponsor the Senate version of a House measure that would curb raids on medical marijuana dispensaries.

A desire to rein in the DEA has kindled an intriguing political alliance between Paul and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), one of the chamber's most liberal members, who is cosponsoring the measure.

As the DEA has struggled with the politics of marijuana, it also has faced a spate of incidents requiring administration officials to clean up after agents.

The Justice Department last year agreed to a $4.1-million settlement with a man whom DEA agents left handcuffed in a San Diego holding cell without food or water for five days. And federal investigators are looking into charges that the agency has been improperly collecting phone company data and concealing from defendants how the information was used against them.

But neither those problems nor changes in public opinion have caused the agency to shift its ground. The DEA's latest policy paper on pot declares the medical marijuana movement, which has won victories in 22 states, to be a fraud.

"Organizers," it says, "did not really concern themselves with marijuana as a medicine — they just saw it as a means to an end, which is the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes."

Displayed prominently in the DEA Museum at its Arlington, Va., headquarters is part of a California dispensary that narcotics agents raided and shut down. It sits alongside the rebuilt front of a crack house.


Via LA Times

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New Report Blasts DEA For Spending 4 Decades Obstructing Marijuana Science

via neboagency

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been impeding and ignoring the science on marijuana and other drugs for more than four decades, according to a report released this week by the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug policy reform group, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a marijuana research organization.

“The DEA is a police and propaganda agency," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Wednesday. “It makes no sense for it to be in charge of federal decisions involving scientific research and medical practice."

The report alleges that the DEA has repeatedly failed to act in a timely fashion when faced with petitions to reschedule marijuana. The drug is currently classified as Schedule I, which the DEA reserves for the "most dangerous" drugs with "no currently accepted medical use." Schedule I drugs, which include substances like heroin and LSD, cannot receive federal funding for research. On three separate occasions -- in 1973, 1995 and again in 2002 -- the DEA took years to make a final decision about a rescheduling petition, and in two of the cases the DEA was sued multiple times to force a decision.

The report criticizes the DEA for overruling its own officials charged with determining how illicit substances should be scheduled. It also criticizes the agency for creating a "regulatory Catch-22" by arguing there is not enough scientific evidence to support rescheduling marijuana while simultaneously impeding the research that would produce such evidence.

A spokesperson at the DEA declined to comment on the report.

The feds have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the substance, but that trend appears to be changing.

According to The Hill, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has conducted about 30 studies to date on the potential benefits of marijuana. NIDA oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of marijuana grown for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. -- a process through which the only federally sanctioned marijuana studies are approved.

The joint report comes less than two weeks after the House approved three amendments taking aim at the DEA and its ability to enforce federal marijuana and hemp laws in states which have legal marijuana operations and industrial hemp programs. The medical marijuana amendment was sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

"Nobody should be afraid of the truth," Rohrabacher said Wednesday. "There's a lot of other drugs that have harmful side effects. Is the downside of marijuana a harmful side effect? Or is there a positive side that actually does help? That needs to be proven."

The federal government's interest in marijuana certainly appears to be growing. Since 2003, it has approved more than 500 grants for marijuana-related studies, with a marked upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. In 2003, 22 grants totaling $6 million were approved for cannabis research. In 2012, that number had risen to 69 approved grants totaling more than $30 million.

"The DEA has obstructed research into the medical use of marijuana for over 40 years and in the process has caused immeasurably suffering that would otherwise have been treated by low-cost, low-risk generic marijuana," Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, said in a statement. "The DEA’s obstruction of the FDA approval process for marijuana has -- to the DEA’s dismay -- unintentionally catalyzed state-level medical marijuana reforms.”

Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight other states -- Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin -- have legalized CBD oils, made from a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana frequently used to treat epilepsy, for limited medical use or for research purposes.

A number of recent studies have shown the medical potential of cannabis. Purified forms may attack some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use also has been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. One study found that legalization of the plant for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates.

Nadelmann said the DEA has "demonstrated a regular pattern of abusing its discretionary powers."

"We believe this authority would be better handled by another government agency in the health realm, or even better still, by an organization that is truly independent, perhaps something that involves the National Academy of Sciences," he said. "We will be working to encourage greater congressional oversight and also to call for reforms of federal law."


Via Huff Post

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House bans DEA from attacking medical marijuana facilities

US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents (AFP Photo/Tim Sloan)

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives awarded a major victory to states’ rights advocates on Thursday and approved a measure that would prevent the United States Drug Enforcement Agency from cracking-down on medical marijuana operations.

Thursday evening, the House voted 219-189 in favor of an amendment from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) that, if signed into law, will prevent the DEA from using federal funds to go after medical marijuana patients and providers in jurisdictions where state law says pot can legally be prescribed in certain cases.

Although medical marijuana is legal in nearly half of the 50 states, the federal government still considers cannabis to be a Schedule 1 narcotic on par with heroin. This conflict between state and federal law has ravaged businesses in areas where local legislation permits medicinal weed, yielding countless instances in which armed DEA agents have raided nurseries and dispensaries alike to enforce the national pot prohibition.

With Thursday night’s vote, however, Congress may be signaling that a sea change is imminent. Rohrabacher’s amendment to H.R. 4660 as approved by the House calls that “None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to [states with medical marijuana laws in place] , to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

“Congress is officially pulling out of the war on medical marijuana patients and providers,” Dan Riffle, the director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Fox News.

But Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colorado), who represents one of only two states in the US where recreational marijuana is legal, told attendees at a Friday morning press conference that Thursday’s win, although a victory for those wanting reform, nevertheless came as a surprise.

“Quite frankly, many of us who were sponsors of this amendment… didn’t expect to win and were surprised by the margin of that victory this morning,” Polis said at a presser early Friday.

“While I always knew it would happen sooner than most political observers thought, it’s still hard to believe this just happened,” Tom Angell, the chairman of Marijuana Majority, told the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly.

Additionally, the House voted on Thursday to pass two separate amendments that, if signed into law, will prohibit the DEA from interfering in the educational research being conducted in certain parts of the US to examine a potential reemergence for industrial hemp. As RT reported previously, the state of Kentucky has come under fire from federal officials in recent weeks who’ve prevented scientists there from receiving shipments of hemp seeds that they plan to use for research purposes.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky), who introduced those amendments along with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), told HuffPo that his state was forced into a “waste of time and money and the court system’s limited resources” by the DEA.

“The DEA is not above Congress, it’s not above the law,” Massie said. “This amendment simply asks the DEA to follow existing laws.”

Next, the Senate will have to weigh in on the hemp and medical marijuana amendments before they can be passed to the White House and await Pres. Barack Obama’s signature.


Via Ganja News

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Lawmakers clash with DEA officials over reclassifying marijuana

By Agence France-Presse

U.S. lawmakers who support steady relaxation of state laws on marijuana sparred Tuesday with Obama administration officials who continue to label the drug in the same high-danger category as heroin.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s chief deputy said marijuana deserved to remain listed as a “Schedule 1″ narcotic — a list which includes severely addictive drugs including LSD and ecstasy — even though he could not identify a single fatal overdose attributable to cannabis last year.

“Marijuana is the most widely available and commonly abused illicit drug in the United States,” the DEA’s Thomas Harrigan told a House panel in a joint statement with John Walsh, the US attorney in Colorado, which along with Washington state legalized recreational marijuana use this year.

They said abuse among young Americans is on the rise, with marijuana’s more potent production methods and increased trafficking by international drug cartels the growing concerns.

But lawmakers were dumbfounded at a multi-billion-dollar anti-drug strategy from Washington that leads to thousands of incarcerations for acts that have already been decriminalized in 20 states.

“This level of disparity is indefensible”

“We’ve locked people up. We’re spending billions of dollars, and it’s not working,” House Democrat Earl Blumenauer said.

Around 750,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges in 2011, outpacing detentions for violent crime, Blumenauer said citing FBI figures.

He and fellow member Steve Cohen said 16,000 people died last year from prescription drug overdoses, and noted how thousands more died from heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine and the legal intoxicant alcohol.

But when asked how many people died from marijuana, the DEA’s Harrigan told the House government oversight panel: “I’m not aware of any.”

The hearing was held just as Washington DC’s city council ruled to decriminalize marijuana, ranking possession of small amounts of the drug on a similar scale as getting a parking ticket in the nation’s capital.

Several lawmakers have argued that bringing pot sales within the U.S. legal framework would allow authorities to tax and closely monitor the drug.

But Harrigan insisted that “there are no sound scientific, economic or social reasons to change our nation’s marijuana policy.”

Cohen said U.S. marijuana legislation is so universally decried as wrong that “it breeds disrespect for the law” and the judiciary system as a whole.

“The idea that it’s a schedule 1 drug is ludicrous,” he added.

Subcommittee chairman John Mica noted that distinct conflicts between the federal law and state initiatives like those in Colorado needed to be resolved.

“We are trying to sort this out,” Mica said, noting that while there has been success in reducing tobacco use rates, “we’re backsliding on marijuana,” with pot use among high school seniors rising by 19 percent since 2008.

Democrat Gerry Connolly, meanwhile, warned that US marijuana policy had racial overtones, citing figures showing blacks were four times more likely than whites to be arrested on marijuana charges.

“This level of disparity is indefensible,” he said.


Via RawStory

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Eric Holder Says DOJ Will Let Washington, Colorado Marijuana Laws Go Into Effect

WASHINGTON -- The United States government took a historic step back from its long-running drug war on Thursday, when Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would allow the states to create a regime that would regulate and implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults.

A Justice Department official said that Holder told the governors in a joint phone call early Thursday afternoon that the department would take a "trust but verify approach" to the state laws. DOJ is reserving its right to file a preemption lawsuit at a later date, since the states' regulation of marijuana is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole also issued a three-and-a-half page memo to U.S. attorneys across the country. "The Department's guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests," it reads. "A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice."

The memo also outlines eight priorities for federal prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws. According to the guidance, DOJ will still prosecute individuals or entities to prevent:

  • the distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
  • the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
  • state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
  • preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

The eight high-priority areas leave prosecutors bent on targeting marijuana businesses with a fair amount of leeway, especially the exception for "adverse public health consequences." And prosecutors have shown a willingness to aggressively interpret DOJ guidance in the past, as the many medical marijuana dispensary owners now behind bars can attest.

U.S. Attorneys will individually be responsible for interpreting the guidelines and how they apply to a case they intend to prosecute. A Justice Department official said, for example, that a U.S Attorney could go after marijuana distributors who used cartoon characters in their marketing because that could be interpreted as attempting to distribute marijuana to minors.

But the official stressed that the guidance was not optional, and that prosecutors would no longer be allowed to use the sheer volume of sales or the for-profit status of an operation as triggers for prosecution, though these factors could still affect their prosecutorial decisions.

The Obama administration has struggled with the legalization of medical marijuana in several states. Justice Department Officials had instructed federal prosecutors across the country not to focus federal resources on individuals who were complying with state laws regarding the use of medical marijuana. But the U.S. attorneys in several states that had legalized medical marijuana rebelled, and what was known as the Ogden memo faced stiff resistance from career prosecutors.

"That's just not what they do,” one former Justice official told HuffPost. “They prosecute people."

As a result of the internal pushback at DOJ, a new memo was issued by Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2011 that gave U.S. attorneys more cover to go after medical marijuana distributors. Federal prosecutors began threatening local government officials with prosecution if they went forward with legislation regulating medical cannabis.

After recreational marijuana initiatives passed in Washington and Colorado in November, President Barack Obama said the federal government had “bigger fish to fry” and would not make going after marijuana users a priority.

Holder said back in December that the federal response to the passage of the state ballot measures would be coming “relatively soon.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told HuffPost his office was preparing for the “worst-case scenario” of a federal lawsuit against the law.

UPDATE: 6:15 p.m. -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who'd been pressing Holder to make a decision and respect the will of the states' voters, applauded the move, saying in a statement that "the Justice Department should focus on countering and prosecuting violent crime, while respecting the will of the states whose people have voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal and medical use." He had previously scheduled a hearing on the issue for Sept. 10.

At issue will be how the U.S. Attorneys will implement the directive. John Walsh, the lead prosecutor for the District of Colorado, has previously aggressively interpreted guidance from Justice higher-ups and targeted medical marijuana dispensaries that were not accused of breaking any state laws, like those that were operating near schools. His reaction Thursday to Holder's announcement might not give Colorado business owners much confidence that he intends to modify his approach.

"Of particular concern to the U.S. Attorney’s Office are cases involving marijuana trafficking directly or indirectly to children and young people; trafficking that involves violence or other federal criminal activity; trafficking conducted or financed by street gangs and drug cartels; cultivation of marijuana on Colorado’s extensive state and federal public lands; and trafficking across state and international lines," Walsh said. "In addition, because the Department of Justice’s guidance emphasizes the central importance of strong and effective state marijuana regulatory systems, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to focus on whether Colorado’s system, when it is implemented, has the resources and tools necessary to protect those key federal public safety interests. To accomplish these goals, we look forward to closely working with our federal, state and local partners."


Via Huffington Post

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Because they said so?!

US court rejects bid to reclassify marijuana

What kind of reason is that?! WTF?! -UA


WTFBUT_2A U.S. appeals court has rejected a petition to reclassify marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use.

The appeals court panel Tuesday turned away the bid from a medical marijuana group, Americans for Safe Access.

In 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a petition by medical marijuana advocates to change the classification.

The court said that the question wasn't whether marijuana could have some medical benefits, but rather whether the DEA's decision was "arbitrary and capricious." The court concluded that the DEA action survives review under that standard.

Marijuana is classified as a controlled substance, categorized as having a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use, together with drugs like heroin, LSD and ecstasy.

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Numbered days

The Fallacy of the DEA: Why the Agency Needs to Concede to Legal Marijuana

There's no denying the pressure that the Drug Enforcement Administration must be feeling lately. The popularity behind the marijuana legalization movement is at an all-time high, and prohibitionists are jumping ship at record rates to support cannabis reform. The drug agency has never been without opposition in its near 40 year history, but it's hard remembering a time when there's ever been this much heat on the narc outfit. The DEA is obviously still alive and well at present, but government bureaucracies are in no way immune from having to evolve with the times for lasting survival.

Looking back, 1973 was an epic year in the United States. The Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in January, the Watergate hearings began in May, the legendary thoroughbred Secretariat won the Triple Crown in June, and then a month later in July, the world was introduced to the biggest narcotics police conglomerate ever known to man: The United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

I say conglomerate because the DEA wasn't created from thin air. Instead, several existing agencies gelled together to form the inaugural drug enforcement monopoly. The main forerunners to the Justice Department's newest play-toy were the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE), the Office for National Narcotic Intelligence, and many of the enforcement components from the U.S. Customs Service. These agencies ceased to exist entirely once the DEA came onto the scene, excluding Customs of course, which only relinquished some of its arsenal to the new kid on the block.

Coincidentally, the U.S. Customs Service was the first federal law enforcement agency I worked for, though it was several years later and towards the end of the organization's historic span when I was employed. I bring this up because the fate of U.S. Customs, as it was under the Treasury Department, is a perfect example of the government evolution I alluded to earlier. Ultimately, neither the Customs Service nor the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) could stand the test of time as standalone entities post-9/11, thus the merging of their authorities under the newly formed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003.

Going back to the DEA's similar rocky formation, President Richard Nixon's purpose for establishing the agency was to have a single and streamlined unit at the federal level to combat the nation's growing problem of drug consumption. Leading up to that point, the feds had no real teeth to combat the illicit narcotics industry. Actually, it's not that the feds didn't have the teeth, it's more that they weren't chewing and operating in sync with one another (as is still the case today with the constant red-tape and rivaling between certain agencies).

The concept of having a centralized narcotics bureau might have been admirable in the early seventies. However, we're now witnessing the long-term flaws associated with creating such a robust agency with the sole purpose of drug enforcement, especially considering one of the DEA's biggest targets is marijuana (which is obviously a commodity becoming more and more acceptable every day).

The growing tolerance towards cannabis poses a huge risk for the DEA, or at least the agency seems concerned with pot going mainstream. If this weren't the case, they wouldn't be so relentless in their fight against the medical marijuana industry. Polls consistently show that the use of cannabis via doctor recommendation is welcomed by almost eighty percent of the population. Yet, the DEA refuses to throw in the towel when it comes to this costly and unpopular crusade, even if it means trampling all over the rights of state and local governments in the process. Common sense should tell the DEA to give up on marijuana entirely at this point, including policing against recreational usage, which a majority of Americans now believe should be legally on par with alcohol consumption.

Many long-term factors were neglected when the DEA was formed in 1973. For example, what if public perception changed over time and people later determined that drug abuse and addiction should be treated as health issues rather than law enforcement ones? Or what if society came to agree that prohibition's caustic side effects weren't worth fronting a fruitless multi-billion dollar drug war each year? Or what if citizens deemed that one illicit substance in particular, the one realistically funding more of the DEA's annual enforcement budget than any other, was a plant that could generate a taxable fortune for a country in need of financial aid more than ever?

Unfortunately for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the organization is single minded for the most part, meaning there's no backup plan should Americans one day decide to do away with prohibition altogether. As a result, the agency has a vested interest in maintaining the Controlled Substances Act as it now stands. This is why the agency fights tooth and nail over losing its grip on any banned substance, let alone the most popular and abundant one.

Other agencies (i.e. FBI, ICE, ATF, etc.) have wider scopes, broader authorities, and more mission flexibility. If the threat from terrorism ended tomorrow, the FBI would certainly survive due to the agency's array of enforceable statutes. Likewise with ICE's investigative division, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), as this DHS component actually has the broadest statutory authority of all federal investigative agencies.

One factor often overlooked regarding the futility of drug policing is the fact that the relationship between drug suppliers and drug users is essentially victimless. It's not as if Chapo Guzman and company are down in Mexico with their guns drawn to the heads of Americans, forcing their products into the mouths and noses of Yankee gringos. Rather, it is Americans seeking out the services of the cartels, and ironically and unfairly for Mexico, drug traffickers south of the border have American guns drawn amongst themselves as they compete over U.S. business.

The horrific bloodshed below the Rio Grande is reason enough to legalize marijuana entirely and immediately at this point, and for Americans who still don't get it, our shared boundary with Mexico is 1,969 miles long and unsecured. It's obvious the violence can't remain isolated to only Mexico if it's allowed to foster long enough. Indeed, the Department of Justice reports that Mexican cartels have already set up shop in more than 1,000 U.S. cities.

The southwest border will never be fully secured as long as much of the trade between South and Central America crosses America's southern border. However, there's no denying we'd be much safer if it weren't for the constant criminalization of our neighbors to the south. Illicit marijuana revenues make up around sixty percent of cartel profits per the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and it's the earning potential from this substance alone that tempts and lures most recruits into the narco game. Maintaining marijuana's illegality is only producing, enriching, and weaponizing more and more psychopath killers in Mexico, while simultaneously wasting valuable and scarce resources here in the United States.

Just recently, the DEA's administrator, Michele Leonhart, only reaffirmed her agency's stubborn position on marijuana. She was questioned in front of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, and it's intriguing to me that a congressman from Tennessee, Steve Cohen, was the one who grilled Leonhart the most on the DEA's outdated stance towards cannabis. Not because Tennessee ranks second to only California when it comes to the domestic production of marijuana, but mostly because I imagine the DEA feels confident hedging its bet on "indefinite marijuana prohibition" with southern conservative mindsets. However, as a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), who is tasked with giving presentations in some of the bible belt's deepest parts imaginable, I feel confident stating that I don't think the south will be the DEA's saving grace when it comes to deterring pot legalization.

Obviously the Drug Enforcement Administration is at a crossroads right now, and in no way am I implying the organization should be eliminated or disbanded. However, when it comes to marijuana the ballgame is over, and resources need to be drastically and quickly shifted. The agency needs to bow down gracefully to cannabis's legitimacy at this point, instead of continuing to prolong the inevitable. The government was set up to be run by the people for the people, and it's time for the DEA to recognize this. It might've been in 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse to be public enemy number one, but it's nearly half a century later today, and prohibition itself has now become a much bigger nuisance to society (especially concerning marijuana).

Jamie Haase, a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

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Thoughts from the editor……


Releaf Magazine June 2012

Just as young children look to their parents for their rules and guidelines, we have been brainwashed as adults into thinking our government must provide us with the same type of authority.  Instead of telling the government how we want to live our lives and the rules they must follow, we look to them to decide if our actions are right or wrong.  This is apparent as our Bill of Rights and the Constitution continue to wither away in front of our eyes.  It is also blatant in the prohibition of cannabis.  17 states have enacted a medical marijuana program, 15 states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis, while over 50% of the country supports legalization of cannabis.  While these numbers seem encouraging and may show progression in the cannabis movement, it also shows the power we give up by letting the government decide how cannabis should be regulated.  It places Americans in a position where they must settle for less than they deserve and still fall victim to the mercy of a cannabis monopoly.  In dry states, the DEA has and will continue to control the monopoly.  The free enterprise of the California medical system has been viewed by some as the ‘wild west,’ leading to tighter regulation in other states that implement medical marijuana programs.  The leniency of the California program allowed for many California residents to realize large financial gains by starting new businesses and engaging in cannabis related commerce.  Wait….Americans making a living for themselves off of the land, growing plants that can heal and provide for self sufficiency? In today’s society it seems too good to be true, and unfortunately it will be for many states moving forward.  That’s not what we are lead to believe though, just look at the picture that is being painted.  Most states considering medical legislation immediately see opposition from those referencing the “flaws” in the California system.  This has lead to private interest groups finding a backdoor into the driver’s seat of a cannabis monopoly.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in Massachusetts which has multiple bills calling for medical marijuana being legal for its citizens.  The bills that have no support are the bills that give patients the rights to provide for themselves, or appoint their own caregiver to provide for them.  The bill that has support from the “for profit” patient’s organization is backed by a corporate giant with interest in keeping growing rights away from patients and put directly into the hands of corporations.  I will say this as clearly and as blunt as I can: when you grow your own medicine for yourself, no one makes money from it. Sure, you may be better off as an individual, but as stated earlier, the government tells us how, what and when we can chew, rather than we pick out our own piece to chew on.  So, to those living in a state without a medical marijuana program ready to support any bill that offers legalization, I will offer the following advice: the grass might look greener on the other side, but check to see if its fertilized with bullshit. 

Think Responsibly,

The Urban Alchemist

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June Issue now Available Online!

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DEA proves their worth

DEA almost kills student leaving him in a cell for 5 days without food or water

Daniel Chong, the UC San Diego student who was left in a Drug Enforcement Administration holding cell for nearly five days, said the time spent in his cell was a life-altering experience.
The 23-year-old spoke with NBCSanDiego and said he was increasingly worried throughout the days he spent in a 5 ft. by 10 ft. cell, where he could not spread his arms out wide.
“They never came back, ignored all my cries and I still don’t know what happened,” he said. “I’m not sure how they could forget me.”
As NBCSanDiego was first to report Saturday, the DEA confirmed its agents were investigating an incident in which a suspect, arrested Saturday, April 21, was detained at their office for several days and allegedly forgotten about.
Chong said he was at a friend’s house in University City celebrating 4/20, a day many marijuana users set aside to smoke, when agents came inside and raided the residence. Chong was then taken to the DEA office in Kearny Mesa.
He said agents questioned him, and then told him he could go home. One agent even offered him a ride, Chong said. No criminal charges were filed against him.
But Chong did not go home that night. Instead, he was placed in a cell for five days without any human contact and was not given food or drink. In his desperation, he said he was forced to drink his own urine.
“I had to do what I had to do to survive….I hallucinated by the third day,” Chong said. “I was completely insane.”
Chong said he lost roughly 15 pounds during the time he was alone. His lawyer confirmed that Chong ingested a powdery substance found inside the cell. Later testing revealed the substance was methamphetamine.
After days of being ignored, Chong said he tried to take his own life by breaking the glass from his spectacles with his teeth and then attempting to carve “Sorry mom,” on his arm. He said nurses also found pieces of glass in his throat, which led him to believe he ingested the pieces purposefully.
Chong said he could hear DEA employees and people in neighboring cells. He screamed to let them know he was there, but no one replied. He kicked the door, but no one came to get him.
By the time DEA officers found Chong in his cell Wednesday morning Chong was completely incoherent, said Iredale.
“I didn’t think I would come out,” Chong said.
He said when employees discovered him in the cell that they looked confused and nervous. A DEA employee rode with him to the hospital, where they paid for Chong’s visit.
He spent three days in the intensive care unit at Sharp Hospital and his kidneys were close to failing.
Chong and his lawyer spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the claim they will file with the federal court system on Wednesday.
“He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said his lawyer Gene Iredale, who compared Chong’s experience to the torture suffered by inmates at in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq
The DEA has not apologized to Chong, said Iredale.
The incident also caused Chong to miss his midterms at UCSD. He said he does not know if he will return to school, as his perspective on life has changed since his isolation.
San Diego defense attorney Gretchen Von Helms said the victim could get millions if he files a lawsuit.
"In all my years of practice I've never heard of the DEA or any Federal government employee simply forgetting about someone that they have in their care," she said.
"There has to be repercussions if people do not follow the safety and the care when they have a human being in their custody."


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