Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Women, and others, less safe under Federal policy

Diane Sands, a democratic lawmaker from Montana who has championed the rights of medical marijuana patients in her state, has become the object of an inquiry by the DEA.

According to an article in The Missoulan, "A possible witness in a federal drug investigation was asked whether Sands might be part of a conspiracy to sell medical marijuana. The questions came from Drug Enforcement Administration agents from Billings who were investigating medical marijuana businesses, and Sands learned about the inquiry from the witness' attorney."

Sands compared the tactic to McCarthism and the article states, "At least one other legislator declined comment regarding DEA questions about the legislator's duties out of concern over 'additional harassment.'"

The news is particularly troubling because the drug war hinges on the testimony of often-unreliable witnesses who can't be trusted to tell the truth. DEA chief Michelle Leonhart, a Bush holdover activists were disappointed to see reappointed by Obama, is no stranger these strange tactics. Leonhart made her name through her association with a big-time informant who was discredited , but continued to be praised by Leonhart. Two young women have recently been murdered after serving as drug-war informants.

Apparently it's business as usual. I was just looking at a NORML press release from 1995 when the DEA threatened Colorado legislators with reprisals should they vote for legalized hemp in the state.

California NORML has had a recent report of undercover FBI agents pretending to be opening a medical marijuana dispensary, and visiting an Orange County attorney's office, hoping the attorney would incriminate himself. And an Arcata, CA woman was arrested at her home for marijuana cultivation after a "narcotics courier sting on passenger trains" found cash on her boyfriend in Reno. Last year, when Berkeley was considering a medical marijuana dispensary permit, someone who objected turned out to be posing as a Berkeley resident is a suspected undercover agent.

Last March 15, one day after the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee voted to kill a bill that would have repealed the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, the federal government served more than 25 search warrants on medical marijuana businesses across the state.

Obama appointee Benjamin Wagner, the US attorney from the Eastern District in California, has lead the charge against medical marijuana collectives in that state. Wagner used to work white collar crimes and hate crimes, but has apparently been reassigned to easier and less harmful prey. Why? The easy cash they pull in in their "smash and grab" operations? Courting campaign contributions from cops?

Since a recent RAND study and other reports have found that crime actually increases after collectives are closed, it's arguable that the current federal policy is making US states less safe. (RAND pulled their study under pressure from the LA city attorney's office.) Meanwhile, President Obama has declined to address a question about marijuana legalization from a former police officer, despite the fact that the question won twice as many votes as any other in a YouTube poll.

And they call it Democracy.

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