The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361 
Dave Schwartz in Las Vegas 702-445-4666  
Robin Schneider in Lansing 517-282-1986

Tim Beck in Grand Rapids 313-414-2058

Medical Marijuana Patient Advocates Stage Rallies in MI & NV Against Federal Interference

Patients, providers, lawyers, public officials speak out against aggressive, unnecessary & harmful raids

LAS VEGAS, Nev. and LANSING, Mich.

Angry but
peaceful protests will be held this Wednesday in response to what
patient advocates are calling an unnecessary escalation of federal
interference in medical marijuana states. Protests are scheduled to
occur at various times Wednesday in Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as Grand
Rapids and Lansing, Michigan, in response to Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) raids that have occurred over the past 6 months in
the two states. Most recently, fifteen patients and providers were
arrested last week in Las Vegas as a follow-up to aggressive raids
conducted last year. The Justice Department is also pursuing medical
records for 7 registered Michigan patients, despite strong privacy
provisions in that state's medical marijuana law.

What: Coordinated rallies in Las Vegas, Grand Rapids
& Lansing to protest recent federal interference
When: Las Vegas at 12 Noon; Grand Rapids at 9am; Lansing at
Where: Las Vegas - Federal Building, 333 Las Vegas Blvd.
Grand Rapids - Federal Courthouse, 110 Michigan St. NW
Lansing - State Capitol, East steps at Michigan Ave. &
Capitol St.

"It's time to end federal enforcement of local and state medical
marijuana laws," said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with
Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana
group. "Not only are the recent raids inconsistent with the spirit of
the Obama Justice Department memo, but they are harmful and
counterproductive to the full implementation of local and state medical
marijuana laws." Despite an October 2009 Justice Department memorandum
de-prioritizing federal enforcement in medical marijuana states,
aggressive raids, arrests and prosecutions have continued unabated.

On January 6th, several dispensaries, cultivators, and referral
services in Las Vegas were raided by the DEA, resulting in 12 arrests
and the seizure of medical marijuana, money and other property.
According to the DEA, the most recent arrests were connected to
dispensary raids conducted in September of last year. Under the cynical
moniker of "Operation Chronic Problem," the federal government is
charging people with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distribution
of marijuana, conspiracy to commit money laundering, distribution of
marijuana near schools or colleges, possession of a firearm in relation
to drug trafficking and failing to disclose or concealing information
concerning Social Security benefits.

Last year's raids in Las Vegas occurred only two months after heavily
armed federal agents, with the help of the national guard, raided
multiple cultivators near Lansing, Michigan, with no evidence of state
law violations. No charges were levied in the Michigan raids, but the
federal government is now pursuing several private patient records from
the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) as part of their
investigation. Using privacy provisions in the state's medical
marijuana law, the MDCH has so far refused to turn over any patient
records, but a hearing is scheduled for 9am Wednesday (coincident with
the protests) in Grand Rapids federal court before District Court Judge
Gordon Quist. Similar federal subpoenas were rejected in 2007 by a
district court in Oregon after the records of 17 patients were sought
by the feds from the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

"There is absolutely no need for federal agents to be enforcing
local and state medical marijuana laws," continued Woodson. "Enforcing
such laws
is not the purview of the federal government and allegations of local
or state law violations should be prosecuted in state courts." As a
result of the 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Oakland
Cannabis Buyers Cooperative
, defendants tried in federal court have
no means to a medical necessity or state law defense. Historically,
besides the direct harm inflicted on patients and providers, federal
raids have had little effect overall. For example, despite more than
200 raids in California during the G.W. Bush Administration, the number
of local distribution centers steadily increased during the same period.

Further information:
DEA petition to subpoena private patient records in MI:

Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.