Weed Watch

Rowdy West Coast Raid; and Poll Indicates Populace is Mellowing About Pot

Drug Enforcement Administration narcos picked up where they left off just before Christmas, descending upon the small medi-pot growers collective run by Palm Desert, Calif., medi-mari patient Gary Silva in a March 14, early morning raid, seizing 80 pot plants and a cache of patient records, and sending Silva to the hospital with a dislocated shoulder. The feds reportedly burst through the door before Silva could get it open, knocking the medi-pot patient, who suffers from a degenerative disc disorder, tumbling to the ground. According to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, Silva's wife and daughter were held at gunpoint as the narcos raided the facility; no one was arrested, but narcos reportedly told Silva he would face arrest if he dared to grow any more pot. This was just the latest in a chain of federal raids, mainly in California, that the DEA has undertaken with new zeal since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer (in a case originally brought by medi-pot patient Angel Raich) that state-sanctioned medi-pot laws do not exempt patients (and their caregivers and/or growers) from federal enforcement of pot prohibition.

Nonetheless, 11 states (including California, where voters passed a "compassionate use" law in 1996) have passed laws allowing registered patients to grow, possess, and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. And Silva said that his operation was conducted within the boundaries of state law. "I grew for myself and a few other patients, and donated the excess to a nearby dispensing collective," he said. "There was no need for our California sheriffs to call in federal agents to injure me and harass my family."

The Silva raid sparked a new round of protests outside federal buildings across the country by medi-pot advocates – including a downtown Austin protest organized by Texans for Medical Marijuana, and one in Oakland where medi-pot patient and activist Angel Raich was arrested, reportedly for talking back to a security guard who told her she was using a megaphone too close to the building.

In other pot news, NORML reports that a new poll conducted by Zogby International reveals that nearly 50% of likely voters support amending federal law to allow states to "legally regulate and tax marijuana" in the same way that liquor and gambling are regulated. The measure polled favorably among young voters – nearly 66% of voters 18-29 – and middle-aged voters – 50% of those ages 50-64. Interestingly, 58% of 30- to 49-year-olds and 52% of seniors said they'd oppose the change. "Public support for replacing the illicit marijuana market with a legally regulated, controlled market … continues to grow," said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre in a press release. "NORML's challenge is to convert this growing public support into a tangible public policy that no longer criminalizes those adults who use marijuana responsibly."

Of course, if federal drug czar John Walters has his prohibition-loving way, no drugs – aside from tobacco, alcohol, and the cornucopia of pharmaceuticals, of course – would be decriminalized, let alone legalized. Indeed, responding to an editorial critical of the ongoing drug war that appeared on the notoriously conservative editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal last month, Walters penned an op/ed piece for the March 16 WSJ, insisting that there is "no realistic alternative to the fight" against drugs. Illegal drugs are "inherently dangerous," he wrote, and thinking there would be some way to regulate drug use is nothing but a "cruel delusion." There's nothing new in Walters' thinking so it's no surprise that the czar skates around the irony of his position by trying to argue a negative – specifically, that the war on drugs has "staved off a worse circumstance, with many more drug users, and more damage to the social fabric." (To read Walter's latest missive, check out the archives of the Media Awareness Project at www.mapinc.org.)

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