June 6, 2003
The Marijuana Policy Project and a coalition of other marijuana and drug policy reform organizations are joining forces to launch a national day of direct action against the DEA on June 6, 2003.
The effort, headed up by Americans for Safe Access , was a direct response to the DEA's raids on medical marijuana clinics in California. In October and again in February, the DEA raided medical marijuana providers in West Hollywood, San Francisco, and a handful of other locations, seizing patient records and forcing thousands of patients to turn to street sources for their medicine.
In Washington D.C. Participants chained themselves to the door and to each other, chanted slogans, read statements, and refused to move. Two Libertarian Party staffers were arrested . LP Political Director Ron Crickenberger and LP Campus Coordinator Marc Brandl were arrested on the steps of the Department of Justice (DOJ) building in Washington, DC. Both were taken to jail.
Crickenberger and Brandl were among about a dozen protesters conducting a peaceful sit-in to block the entrance to the federal building.
Under the bright morning sun and in the sweltering summer heat, other protesters on a nearby sidewalk held posters with pictures of medical marijuana patients, and captions stating: "A Patient, Not a Criminal" and "Medical Marijuana Saves Lives."
"We're here to focus public attention on this issue," said Crickenberger. "Marijuana is one of the most benign therapeutic substances, and it makes no sense for the federal government to be prosecuting patients who use it."
After being warned by city police to evacuate the premises or be arrested, officers taped off the immediate area, shooed away journalists and onlookers, and handcuffed protesters. They were then forcibly escorted by police officers and SWAT team members into vehicles to be transported to jail. Crickenberger and Brandl were released that evening after being processed and paying a $50 fine.
The Washington, DC rally was one of 55 coordinated protests at Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) offices in cities across the country, organized by a drug-reform coalition called Americans for Safe Access.
The protests were held in anticipation of a June 7 federal court decision in California, which is expected to affirm the right of the DEA to close down medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have passed medical marijuana initiatives.
Voters in eight states have legalized medical marijuana, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, plus Washington DC. However, the federal government has continued to raid marijuana distribution centers and arrest medical marijuana patients, since possession of the drug remains a federal crime.
Using federal agents to go after medical marijuana dispensaries is unconscionable -- especially in states where voters have decriminalized the drug for medical use, said Crickenberger.
"The federal government has recently chosen to push aside local decision-making in favor of heavy-handed raids and intimidation of medical marijuana patients and providers," he said.
During his rally remarks, Crickenberger warned the DEA that if it continues to criminalize patients' access to marijuana, the agency will be subject to "coordinated grassroots resistance," including continued public protests.
The battle between the DEA and the medical facilities began in California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996.
Over the last few years, the federal government has closed the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, claiming both facilities run afoul of federal anti-drug laws.
Medical marijuana advocates were dealt another blow in May 2002, when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that medical marijuana distributors can't offer a "medical necessity" defense in federal court when charged with violating federal law.
"In the case of the Controlled Substances Act, the statute reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception outside the confines of a government-approved research project," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the decision.
However, the court's position runs contrary to research appearing in reputable medical journals, and contrary to personal testimony, said Crickenberger.
"I've met dozens of medical marijuana patients who have found what is often life-saving relief from the oldest of nature's medications," he said. "I participated in the protest so that others may not suffer needlessly in the future."
Other organizations participating in the Washington, DC rally included the Marijuana Policy Project, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, and the Drug Reform Coordination Network.
Protesters in Springfield Mass
New York City and Gainesville Florida Protests
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