On Thursday November 21, US law enforcement agents, along with local police officers raided 14 medical marijuana locations around Colorado (including dispensaries, grow warehouses and 2 private residences), making it one of the largest federal raids since the state’s medical marijuana laws went into effect. A search warrant identifies 10 target subjects, noting alleged violations to the latest DOJ memo dealing with state pot laws that contradict federal policy.
On August 29th, the Justice Department issued a memo to federal prosecutors indicating it wouldn’t interfere with legal marijuana businesses that are acting compliance with state law, so long as they strictly adhere to eight specific areas of concern such as preventing distribution to minors and cultivation on public lands. Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice in Denver said that “there are strong indications that more than one of the eight federal prosecution priorities identified in the Department of Justice’s August guidance memo are potentially implicated.” Two of those violations appear to include trafficking marijuana outside of states where it has been legalized and money laundering. No arrests have been made in this case as of yet.
Many of the locations raided on Thursday had multiple marijuana-related businesses at a single address. According to the Denver Post, “Investigators believe the businesses that were raided are all “one big operation…[and that] those targeted in the raids had been actively purchasing area dispensaries and growhouses over a sustained period of time.”
Juan Guardarrama, One of the named targets, is known to have a criminal history with potential ties to Cuban and Colombian drug gangs, according to the Miami Herald. In 2012 Guardarrama, who is also referred to as “Tony Montana” from the Al Pacino movie “Scarface,” asked undercover police officers to transport his CO-grown marijuana to Florida and?to?”take out”?his?partner. He pleaded guilty earlier this year in Miami in a racketeering case.
This case clearly has a lot of moving parts, and more information is needed to understand the full scope of the situation. But, if evidence proves that there have been large-scale violations to any of the recent DOJ memo’s eight areas of concern, one can’t be surprised that the federal government would act in accordance to its own guidelines. As more information emerges, the public will get a better understanding of the story and the alleged players involved in this operation.
DEA seizures of indoor and outdoor cannabis crops declined dramatically from 2011 to 2012 and are now at their lowest reported levels in nearly a decade, according to statistics released online by the federal anti-drug agency.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2012 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report, the total number of cannabis plants eradicated nationwide fell 42 percent between 2011 and 2012. This continues a trend, as DEA crop seizures previously fell 35 percent nationwide from 2010 to 2011.
In 2010, the DEA eliminated some 10.3 million cultivated pot plants. (This figure excludes the inclusion of feral hemp plants, tens of millions of which are also typically seized and destroyed by DEA agents annually, but are no longer categorized in their reporting.) By 2011, this total had dipped to 6.7 million. For 2012, the most recent year for which DEA data is available, the total fell to 3.9 million — the lowest annual tally in nearly a decade.
The declining national figures are largely a result of reduced plant seizures in California. Coinciding largely with the downsizing of, and then ultimately the disbanding of, the state’s nearly 30-year-old Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program, DEA-assisted marijuana seizures in the Golden State have fallen 73 percent since 2010 — from a near-record 7.4 million cultivated pot plants eradicated in 2010 to approximately 2 million in 2012. DEA-assisted cannabis eradication efforts have remained largely unchanged in other leading grow states during this same period.
The DEA’s 2012 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Statistical Report is available online here.
25 Years Ago: DEA’s Own Administrative Law Judge Ruled Cannabis Should Be Reclassified Under Federal LawSeptember 5, 2013
Friday, September 6, 2013 marks the 25-year anniversary of an administrative ruling which determined that cannabis possesses accepted medical utility and ought to be reclassified accordingly under federal law.
The ruling, issued in 1988 by US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chief Administrative Law Judge Francis Young “In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling,” determined: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”
Young continued: “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.”
Judge Young concluded: “The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II [of the federal Controlled Substances Act].”
Judge Young’s ruling was in response to an administrative petition filed in 1972 by NORML which sought to reschedule cannabis under federal law. Federal authorities initially refused to accept the petition until mandated to do so by the US Court of Appeals in 1974, and then refused to properly process it until again ordered by the Court in 1982. In 1986, 14-years after NORML filed its initial petition, the DEA finally held public hearings on the issue before Judge Young, who rendered his decision two years later.
However, then-DEA Administrator John Lawn ultimately rejected Young’s determination, and in 1994, the Court of Appeals allowed Lawn’s reversal to stand – maintaining marijuana’s present classification as a Schedule I prohibited substance with “no accepted medical use,” and a “lack of accepted safety … under medical supervision.”
In July 2011, the DEA rejected a separate marijuana rescheduling petition, initially filed in 2002. This past January, a three-judge panel for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the DEA’s decision, ruling that insufficient clinical studies exist to warrant a judicial review of cannabis’ federally prohibited status. Petitioners have appealed the ruling to the US Supreme Court, which may or may not elect to review the matter.
In what can only be described as a horrible tragedy for college student Daniel Chong–as well as for the American taxpayer–the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration has agreed to pay $4.1 million dollars to Mr. Chong for falsely imprisoning him after an April 20, 2012 party, and worse, literally forgetting about him in a holding cell for five days where Mr. Chong drank his own urine to survive, and cut himself to leave a dying message to his mother.
To date no DEA field agents or local managers have been held responsible for this gross error (ironically, only the taxpayer is left being the responsible party in this legal nightmare).
This kind of abuseful and money-wasting government nitwittery is another prime example of why cannabis prohibition must end in America post haste.
San Diego Union Tribune article about the settlement, and previous news coverage, is below:
By Jeff McDonald1:08 a.m.July 30, 2013
Daniel Chong, the self-confessed pot smoker who was caught up in a drug sweep last year and nearly died after federal agents inadvertently abandoned him in a holding cell for five days without food or water, is now a millionaire.
Attorney Eugene Iredale announced Tuesday he reached a $4.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, without even filing a lawsuit.
The harrowing experience for Chong, 25, an engineering student, began on a Friday night in 2012, when he admittedly went to some friends’ house in University City to celebrate April 20, a special date for marijuana users.
Chong didn’t know it at the time, but the home had been under surveillance by a federal narcotics task force.
Drug agents executed a search warrant early in the morning of April 21, Among other things, they found 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana and several weapons in the residence, according to court papers.
The agents also found Chong sleeping on a couch in the front room and transported him and six others to the San Diego field office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for follow-up interviews.
Chong said he answered all of the agents’ questions and they agreed to send him home without criminal charges.
But instead he was returned to a temporary holding cell, where he spent the next four days without food or water. He has said he became delirious, drank his own urine, ate the broken shards of his glasses and used the glass to cut the message “sorry mom” in his own forearm.
He said he kicked the door and screamed for help but agents never came to his assistance. DEA agents admitted later they “accidentally” left Chong in the cell and took the unusual step of apologizing publicly to the UCSD student.
DEA officials declined to comment about the case Monday.
Findings of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Justice have not been released.
In what should be an interesting debate today at the Aspen Ideas Festival today at 12:20 (eastern) Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann is debating former DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson.Youtube has live stream starting @ 12:20PM (eastern)Having debated Asa numerous times, and having worked with Ethan for twenty years, this is a decidedly unfair debate as Ethan has forgotten more about cannabis policy than Asa will ever know, and Asa brings all of the enthusiasm and intellectual commitment to the debate as a corporate lawyer. His m.o. of parroting DEA-provided talking points is what I find so disappointing ‘debating’ Asa.Having cannabis legalization debated at this venerable Aspen Institute forum is another socio-political ‘tea leaf’ indicative of the mainstream discussion underway to reform cannabis laws.