(SAN FRANCISCO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today requested a meeting with United States Attorney General John Ashcroft and Drug Enforcement Agency Director Asa Hutchinson to discuss the federal government's unprecedented attacks on locally-authorized medical marijuana operations.
Over the last several months, the DEA has initiated a string of raids throughout California targeting small, locally-authorized medical marijuana cooperatives. Yesterday, federal agents raided a Santa Cruz cooperative that had been working closely with local law enforcement to ensure compliance with state medical marijuana laws. Some of the raids have resulted in arrests, yet in several cases, federal prosecutors have declined to prosecute. In a letter formally requesting the meeting, Lockyer stated:
"I must also question the ethical basis for the DEA's policy when these raids are being executed without apparent regard for the likelihood of successful prosecution. Whether or not the U.S. Attorney decides to file in the Santa Cruz case, my Department is aware of other recent DEA-initiated raids involving as few as six marijuana plants in which no charges were ever filed, and no convictions were obtained. Conversations with DEA representatives in California have made it clear that the DEA's strategic policy is to conduct these raids as punitive expeditions whether or not a crime can be successfully prosecuted."
Lockyer further questioned the timing and wisdom behind the federal government's strategy of using scarce public safety resources to raid medical marijuana cooperatives:
"A medicinal marijuana provider such as the Santa Cruz collective represents little danger to the public, and is certainly not a concern which would warrant diverting scarce federal resources away from the fight against domestic methamphetamine production, heroin distribution or international terrorism to cite just a few far more worthy priorities."
Emphasizing the seemingly petty nature of federal enforcement activities, Lockyer cited the state's own record in putting serious, marijuana criminal enterprises out of business:
"During the last three years, my department's statewide Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program has taken record amounts of illegal marijuana out of production in California. By targeting large-scale drug trafficking operations, we've removed billions of dollars of illegal marijuana that was headed for sale on our streets, not to sick patients. While we've enjoyed unprecedented success with CAMP, I'm certain we could be even more effective if the DEA increased its financial commitment to CAMP, perhaps by the same amount it is now spending on raids which have the effect of targeting the state's seriously ill residents rather than criminal organizations."
In November of 1996 California voters approved Proposition 215 permitting access to marijuana for medicinal purposes with more than 55 percent of the vote. Since that time, seven other states (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington) have enacted similar laws. While federal law makes no exception for the medicinal use of marijuana, federal efforts targeting authorized California cooperatives operating in compliance with state law have only occurred since 2001.