Medical Marijuana Wars Heat Up

California-based medical marijuana activists have called for a national day of nonviolent "direct action to push back the DEA" at DEA offices nationwide on Thursday, June 6. According to Americans for Safe Access, or ASA (www.safeaccessnow.org), the group organizing the day of action, the DEA is set to swoop down on California medical marijuana dispensaries on or soon after June 6, the day before US Circuit Judge Charles Breyer is expected to issue a permanent injunction barring medical marijuana distribution dispensaries under federal law.

"This is a proactive measure to put the federal government on notice," said ASA's Stephanie Scherer, one of the campaign's lead organizers. "We will be doing direct actions and civil disobedience, which is a tactical escalation," she told DRCNet. "We have played by the rules, we got laws passed in various states, we worked with state governments, we worked with local law enforcement, we've done everything by the book and still this campaign of terror against medical marijuana patients and providers continues," said Scherer. "The Bush administration is pushing us to the next level. Bush cannot attack the democratic process like this. We are taking a zero-tolerance stand on federal interference with medical marijuana in the states."

The primary target will be local DEA offices across the country, which will be served with "cease and desist" orders demanding that the agency keep hands off medical marijuana patients and providers. Other creative actions, including civil disobedience, are being planned, said Scherer.

"We will also on June 6 send President Bush a letter listing our demands," she added. "Those demands are that they cease this campaign of terror on patients, dispensaries, and caregivers, that Bush endorse the Barney Frank Bill (H.R. 2592, providing for states' rights to enact medical marijuana protections), and that all prosecutions against medical marijuana growers, dispensaries and patients stop now."

ASA is a special campaign of the Cannabis Action Network (www.cannabisaction.net), but is also part of a coalition of allied organizations, including NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Campaign for Sensible Drug Policies, the Drug Policy Alliance, DrugSense and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said Scherer.

Although the call only went out on Tuesday, actions are already confirmed in 20 cities, primarily on the West Coast, said Scherer. "But every couple of hours, we get a call telling us about another one," she added. More than 150 people have already signed up on the emergency listserv, she said. (By way of comparison, hemp activists were able to target 73 DEA offices in their December action against DEA attempts to ban hemp-based foods with even negligible THC content.)

Organizers are making it easy for interested parties to participate. ASA provides an organizers' manual and sample "cease and desist" order at its web site and is coordinating with the Washington, DC-based Mintwood Media Collective to whip up press attention. "We can help people with legal support, how to do media, how to do grassroots organizing and civil disobedience, all of that," said Scherer.

While the June 6 actions are proactive -- "putting the government on notice," as Scherer put it -- organizers are also preparing emergency response actions to confront any future raids (www.drcnet.org/wol/234.html#calmedmj). "We're doing direct action tours on the weekend of June 1-2 and will hit eight West Coast cities" to lay the groundwork for both reactive and proactive responses, said Scherer.

"We have to protect patients and their access to medical marijuana," said Scherer, "so we have to escalate our tactics." It could be a long hot summer for the DEA in California this year.

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