The doors to Oaksterdam University in downtown Oakland were blocked by U.S. marshals and yellow tape following the early morning raid by agents with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.Perhaps the most aggravating part of this story was a quote from a former adviser to an unspecified Administration's "Drug Czar":
Agents carted trash bags of unknown materials out of the school as protesters gathered to condemn the action. A museum connected to the school and a nearby medical marijuana dispensary operated by Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee also were raided.
The raid was the latest move by the federal government to crack down on California's thriving medical marijuana industry. Federal prosecutors across the state joined late last year to shut down dozens of dispensaries by threatening to seize landlords' property if they did not evict marijuana retailers.
The government's action came as a surprise to medical marijuana advocates because the city of Oakland has been somewhat of a safe haven for pot clinics. The city has long allowed four medical marijuana dispensaries to legally operate under city ordinances and recently awarded permits that would allow four more to open.
"Oakland has one of the most highly regulated systems for distributing medical marijuana in the state," said Stephen Gutwillig, California's director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We think this is a campaign by the U.S. attorneys not just to limit but to kill access to medical marijuana in California."
Others countered that pot advocates are mistaken if they believe the Obama administration wouldn't take action.
"This is a warning signal to any city including Oakland that they should tread very carefully when sanctioning an illegal activity," said Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser to the president's drug czar and an assistant professor at the University of Florida. "The brazenness of Oakland and other cities like this has actually made them a target."I want to take this guy by the hand and whisper in his ear, "It isn't illegal in California."
The decision by the Obama Administration to dedicate resources to cracking down on the medical marijuana industry in California is amazing in its stupidity, its short-sightedness, and its wastefulness. Yet another example of Obama's essentially Rockefeller Republicanism - not for nothing were New York's draconian drug laws called "the Rockefeller laws", pushed through the legislature by then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller - is the dogged pursuit of a largely irrelevant and horribly named "War on Drugs". One would have thought, all things being equal, Obama would be smart enough and savvy enough to distinguish between activities perfectly legal under various state laws and, say, nationwide distribution of opiates and methamphetamines. A bunch of clinics operating under the strict controls of California's medical marijuana laws seems ill-suited to the jack-bootery of the DEA.
This is not to argue federal law enforcement has no role in interdicting drug trafficking in this country. It is only to wonder why the full force of federal law enforcement is landing so heavily on some folks growing weed under a state-licensed program to distribute it to people to whom it has been prescribed. The myopia of federal officials on this, as on many issues when it comes to drug policy, would be more comical if not for the draconian sentences that accompany conviction even for the mildest drug offence. Some folks growing cannabis under the protection of California law suddenly find themselves facing years-long terms in federal prison? This is justice . . . how, exactly?
What happens when California, or Illinois, or New York, or some other state decriminalize the distribution, sale, and use of marijuana? It's going to happen. It's come close in both California and Illinois in recent years. Are folks enjoying a quiet evening with friends and a joint going to find themselves facing ten years in prison? The whole notion is frightening, ridiculous, obscene.
Wouldn't it be nice if all those people screeching about the 10th Amendment to the Constitution over things that don't apply took a moment or two to complain about this abuse of federal authority? The folks in California are acting legally and properly under a legal regimen approved by that state. That the feds insist on punishing them when there is clearly no matter of interstate jurisdiction involved is as blatant an abuse of power and authority as one can imagine.
It's time to reset some priorities. Going after people providing a legal, medical service to others, under the cover of federal law enforcement, is little different in kind from bombing an abortion clinic.