Tag: The War on Marijuana

Report: Criminal Justice Referrals Still Driving Marijuana ‘Treatment’ Admissions

WASHINGTON, DC — Over half of all people admitted to drug treatment programs for marijuana-related issues over the past decade were referred there by a criminal justice source, according to a report published this month by the US Department of Health and Human Services. In the years 2003 through 2013, 52 percent of people in […]

Report: Criminal Justice Referrals Still Driving Marijuana ‘Treatment’ Admissions | The Daily Chronic


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Arrested Hawaii Medical Marijuana Collective Owner Launches Fundraising Campaign

Arrested Hawaii Medical Marijuana Collective Owner Launches Fundraising Campaign

Says this is an opportunity to help set precedence.

HILO, HI — Big Island resident Mike Ruggles launched a crowdfunding campaign this week to help pay for legal fees after being arrested in September for opening Hawaii’s first medical marijuana collective.

Ruggles says this is an opportunity to help set legal precedence to establish medical marijuana collectives in Hawaii.

Ruggles had opened the Alternative Pain Management Pu’uhonua Collective on January 2nd, where patients with a medical marijuana certification could transfer marijuana between themselves. In order to stay in compliance with the 4 ounce limit members could dispose of their excess marijuana to other members in need.

According to former nurse and collective volunteer Brittany Neal, “the marijuana itself was not ‘sold’ but rather ‘transferred’ for just compensation at a cost set by each member that included the electricity, fertilizer, and other direct costs that went into creating the marijuana.”

Collective members also had access to tinctures, concentrates, a MyDx purity testing machine, a vacuum purge oven, and consultation on cultivation, processing, and consumption of medical marijuana.

After the police raided and arrested Ruggles on September 10th, the collective has since closed, and Hawaii marijuana patients are back to finding medicine through the black market or going without. Ruggles is being charged with running an “unpermitted dispensary” and is facing 77 years in prison.

According the Indiegogo campaign page, Ruggles had “noticed a change in the definition of ‘medical use’ in Hawaii’s medical marijuana law and combined with State and Federal laws, saw an opportunity for patients to help each other.”

“The collective was the first way for sick people to acquire their doctor recommended medicine since the program started 15 years ago. It doesn’t make sense that their trying to throw the only person doing this legally in prison,” said Ruggles, “The legal framework for collectives is already here, they’re legal, it’s going to trial and we’re going to win this.”

To see the full story and support the campaign, go here: http://igg.me/at/ruggles.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Mounting Pressure on DEA Head to Resign for Calling Medical Marijuana “A Joke”

ARLINGTON, VA — Medical marijuana patients and supporters gathered Friday at DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, to hand in more than 100,000 petition signatures demanding the resignation or firing of DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg after he called medical marijuana “a joke.”

The petition, which was started only two weeks ago, has more than doubled the number of signatures on an earlier petition that helped prompt the ouster of Rosenberg’s predecessor, former DEA head Michele Leonhart.

After walking from the nearby site of the International Drug Reform Conference, the group held a brief press conference in front of the DEA building. It was led by petition organizer Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, whose own mother is a patient.

“My mom uses medical marijuana to deal with the severe pain caused by multiple sclerosis,” he said. “This issue is no laughing matter for her and millions of other people who have seen the benefits of cannabis for themselves.”

Also addressing the press conference were medical marijuana patients and the parents of young medical marijuana patients.

“There is no doubt that my son Jagger is alive today because of medical cannabis,” said Sebastian Cotte, who helped carry the petitions. “Cannabis has tremendously decreased the pain and seizures caused by his mitochondrial disease, while improving his quality of life. For our family, this is no joke.”

“There’s nothing funny about suicidal thoughts, and those are something my family and I lived with day-to-day die to my military-related PTSD,” said Navy veteran T.J. Thompson. “Using medical marijuana not only helps with my condition, but it has also had the added effect of making me a better father and husband.”

Medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, and 17 more states have more limited laws allowing for the use of marijuana extracts, primarily for children suffering seizure disorders. According to Americans for Safe Access, which supported the petition, more than two million Americans now use medical marijuana in accordance with state laws.

An ever-increasing mountain of scientific studies have shown that medical marijuana is beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of serious conditions, including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, and many others. With his remarks about medical marijuana as “a joke,” DEA head Rosenberg made clear that he was either ignorant of the science around medical marijuana or indifferent to it.

The petition delivery came one day after a bipartisan group of members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama calling for Rosenberg’s head, saying his comments “send a clear signal to the American people that the federal government isn’t listening to them. It erodes trust. Cavalier statements like these fly in the face of state policy and the experience of millions of patients.”

The letter blasted Rosenberg’s statements as relics of “a throwback ideology rooted in the failed war on drugs” and accused him of “trivializing” both the science and the experience of millions of American who have used medical marijuana.

“Mr. Rosenberg’s statements send a clear signal to the American people that the federal government isn’t listening to them…Through his statements, Mr. Rosenberg has demonstrated that he is not the right person to hold the job of head of the DEA, and we urge you to find new leadership that can work to develop the right tools to properly rationalize our treatment of marijuana,” the letter said.

It was signed by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA). Blumenauer himself took to the House floor to echo the call for Rosenberg’s resignation or firing.

“This is going to be a political problem for the Obama administration until they fix it,” warned Angell.


This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license from StopTheDrugWar.org and was first published here.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

South Dakota Law Can Get You Busted for Smoking Pot in Another State

South Dakota’s Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe announced over the weekend that it was suspending operations on its marijuana resort set to open on New Year’s Eve and that it had burned its pot crop. The tribe said it was seeking “clarification” from the Justice Department to ensure “the continued success of the marijuana venture.”

The move comes as at least three other Indian tribes that have embarked on marijuana operations after the Justice Department seemingly gave them a green light last year have been raided by the DEA, a Justice Department agency. At this point, Indian tribes have reason to be nervous about what the federal stance really is.

But the Flandreau pot operation also drew fast and intense opposition from the state’s Republican political establishment and law enforcement figures. And that opposition has brought renewed attention to one of the most bizarre state marijuana laws in the land, South Dakota’s “internal possession” law.

As Republican state Attorney General Marty Jackley warned—twice—when the tribe announced its plans in June, “South Dakota law prohibits the internal and physical possession, distribution, and manufacture of marijuana by: (1) all non-Indian persons anywhere in South Dakota including within Indian country; (2) all persons, including tribal members, outside of Indian Country.”

The sheriff and prosecutor of Moody County, where the Flandreau reservation is located, reiterated Jackley’s point.

“Bottom line,” said Sheriff Troy Wellman, “if you’re non-native, it’s illegal for you to have marijuana in your system, regardless of whether you’re on tribal ground.”

“If you are a non-tribal member that goes over onto that property and ingests marijuana in any form, you are breaking the laws in the state of South Dakota,” Moody County State’s Attorney Paul Lewis added.

They’re not kidding. Under a state law passed in 2001 and upheld by the state Supreme Court in 2004, you can be arrested, tried, and convicted for having marijuana in your system, even if you ingested it in another state or country (or Indian reservation).

Someone who legally smokes marijuana in Colorado and then drives across the prairie to South Dakota can be charged with the crime of having smoked marijuana elsewhere. It’s the same for medical marijuana patients in states bordering South Dakota. Someone who holds a Minnesota or Montana medical marijuana card, uses his medicine, and then travels to South Dakota can be charged with the crime of having medicated where it is legal.

Here is the law:

 22-42-15.   Ingesting substance, except alcoholic beverages, for the purpose of becoming intoxicated as misdemeanor–Venue for violation. Any person who intentionally ingests, inhales, or otherwise takes into the body any substance, except alcoholic beverages as defined in § 35-1-1, for purposes of becoming intoxicated, unless such substance is prescribed by a practitioner of the medical arts lawfully practicing within the scope of the practitioner’s practice, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The venue for a violation of this section exists in either the jurisdiction in which the substance was ingested, inhaled, or otherwise taken into the body or the jurisdiction in which the substance was detected in the body of the accused.

A Class 1 misdemeanor in South Dakota is punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine. That’s the same penalty as for simple pot possession.

Note that the law specifically allows for prosecuting people internal possession either where they ingested the substance or where it was detected.

It’s not that the cops in South Dakota are randomly accosting passersby and demanding they submit to drug tests—probable cause is needed—but what typically happens is that someone is arrested and police then intimidate him into consenting to a urine drug test during booking. The person is then hit with another criminal charge—internal possession—providing more leverage for prosecutors during plea negotiations.

“The cops took me downtown and said if I didn’t piss for them, they’d stick something in my dick and take it by force,” Huron resident Dave Johnson said of his 2003 internal possession bust. “They were going to take it forcefully — that’s what they told me. So I said okay.”

That’s still how it works. People being booked into jails are told they need to provide a urine test, and if they demur, they are threatened with a court order and the prospect of forced drug testing. Of course, consenting to such drug tests makes it impossible for defense attorneys to challenge them in court, but agreeing to be tested means not only is the prospect of a forced drug test avoided, but also that the defendant will likely be booked and released instead of being held until he can appear before a judge for a warrant hearing.

[image:3 align:right caption:true]”I defend a lot of drug cases,” said Huron attorney Ron Volesky, “and I’ve defended several of these urine sample cases, but I haven’t yet seen an instance where we could challenge a court order because everyone has voluntarily consented. As a practical matter, when the police pick someone up they say, ‘Look, we can do it the hard way or the easy way; you can voluntarily consent because we have probable cause, or we can wake up the judge, have him sign an order, and take you down and have you catheterized.’ They basically threaten you,” said Volesky.

While South Dakota residents are the most frequent victims of the state’s internal possession law, it could happen to anyone, especially visitors unaware of the law. And they don’t even have to get arrested for something to face a possible prosecution. Imagine you’re a medical marijuana patient visiting Rapid City for a shopping trip and your car gets T-boned by a drunk driver who runs a red light. Hospitals routinely test the blood of accident victims. Congratulations, you’ve just become a criminal.

South Dakota, where you can get busted for something you did legally elsewhere. Probably not a slogan the state tourism board is going to select anytime soon.


This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license from StopTheDrugWar.org and was first published here.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Report: One in Eight Federal Drug Prisoners Serving Time for Marijuana Offenses

Report: One in Eight Federal Drug Prisoners Serving Time for Marijuana Offenses

Of the 94,678 federal inmates incarcerated for a drug violation as their most serious offense, 12.4 percent (11,533 persons) are serving time for violating marijuana laws.

WASHINGTON, DC — Over twelve percent of federal drug prisoners are incarcerated for marijuana-related violations, according to data compiled by US Bureau of Prisons and the United State’s Sentencing Commission and published by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Of the 94,678 federal inmates incarcerated for a drug violation as their most serious offense, 12.4 percent (11,533 persons) are serving time for violating marijuana laws. Most marijuana offenders are imprisoned for trafficking violations. The average length of prison time for those incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses is 88 months.

Nearly half (44.3 percent) of federal marijuana inmates are offenders with minimal criminal histories who have not previously served time in prison. Eight-five percent of marijuana offenders did not possess a firearm.

Over a third (36.5 percent) of federal marijuana prisoners are age 40 or older. Thirty-five percent of federal marijuana prisoners are not US citizens.

The percentage of marijuana-related federal prisoners has remained virtually unchanged over the past decade.

Full text of the BJS report, “Drug offenders in federal prison: Estimates of characteristics based on linked data, is online here.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

South Dakota Sioux Tribe Suspends Marijuana Plans, Burns Crop

South Dakota Sioux Tribe Suspends Marijuana Plans, Burns Crop

FLANDREAU, SD — The Santee Sioux Tribe’s plans to open a marijuana-smoking lounge and growing facility by the end of the year have been put on hold indefinitely, the tribe said this past weekend.

The tribal council decided to suspend their marijuana operation after consulting with the federal government, according to a statement released by tribal attorney Seth Pearman. He added that this did not signal the end of the tribe’s plans to move forward with marijuana production in the future.

“This suspension is pivotal to the continued success of the marijuana venture, and tribal leadership is confident that after seeking clarification from the United States Department of Justice, it will be better suited to succeed,” Pearman said.

“The tribe will continue to consult with the federal and state governments, and hopes to be granted parity with states that have legalized marijuana. The tribe intends to successfully participate in the marijuana industry, and tribal leadership is undaunted by this brief sidestep.”

The Indian Country Today Media Network cites rumors that the feds’ preparing a raid on the facility prompted the tribal council to vote for suspension at their Saturday morning meeting. They burned their entire marijuana crop that night.

Despite the tribe’s insistence that this is not the end of their marijuana enterprise, local politicians who opposed the operation are breathing a sigh of relief.

“I believe the Santee Sioux Tribe’s decision to delay its marijuana grow in South Dakota is in the best interest of tribal and nontribal members,” Attorney General Marty Jackley said. “As South Dakota’s attorney general I am committed to continuing discussions with tribal leaders regarding public safety, which include impaired driving and other jurisdictional challenges created by federal law.”

“The governor has said that marijuana violates federal and state law and should not be allowed in South Dakota,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff Tony Venhuizen, added. “He is pleased that the Flandreau Tribe has suspended its plans.”

Venhuizen said he did not know whether the governor’s and attorney general’s vocal disapproval played a role in the tribe’s decision to put their marijuana operation on hold.

In 2014, the United States Department of Justice released a memo to the nation’s tribes implying the federal government would not prosecute the cultivation of marijuana on tribal land as long as it did not venture into prohibited areas like selling pot to minors or using it as a front for trafficking other drugs.

However, tribes remained cautious about legalizing marijuana on their own land, and the Santee Sioux was one of the first tribes to do so. Still, many native and non-native citizens in the area opposed the facility, according to state Rep. Leslie Heinemann, who said he received calls from his constituents asking if he could do anything to “stop” the tribe from moving forward.

Not everyone is pleased with the suspension. Melissa Mentele, a nurse who is leading the charge for the legalization of medical marijuana in South Dakota, told the Indian Country Today Media Network that “the suspension of the grow facility is heartbreaking for the patients and families in South Dakota.”

“Many were hopeful that the Flandreau Sioux Santee Tribe facility would provide access to life-saving medicine as soon as January for the hundreds of suffering South Dakota residents,” Mentele said.

The smoking lounge plans included a discreet, separate area for those consuming marijuana medicinally, tribal president Anthony Reider said during a tour of the facility in October.

Tribal representatives did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

DEA Chief Shows Yet Again He Has No Clue About Marijuana

DEA Chief Shows Yet Again He Has No Clue About Marijuana

DEA Chief Administrator Chuck Rosenberg has once again managed to stick his foot in his mouth about cannabis. Earlier this week, Rosenberg stated that the notion of patients finding therapeutic relief from cannabis bothered him, going on to say “don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.”

The statement comes just a couple of months after the newly appointed DEA chief admitted that he was “not an expert” on marijuana, and had difficulty stating with certainty whether marijuana was more or less dangerous than heroin. After a week of what must have been intense internal deliberation, Rosenberg later clarified his position, but the embarrassment of nation’s top drug enforcement agent’s inability to assert the relative harms of substances was already done.

While Rosenberg’s statement was laughable, asserting that medical cannabis is a joke demonstrates a lack of fitness for the job of running the nation’s Drug Enforcement Agency. There are literally hundreds of clinical studies and case reports pointing towards the medical efficacy of cannabis.

In fact, the primary things preventing the kind of evidence that the federal government demands before classifying something as medicine are the DEA-mandated NIDA-monopoly and the Schedule I status in Controlled Substances Act, which the DEA has stridently maintained for decades. This self-fulfilling ban on medical advancements was documented in great detail in a report by the Brookings Institute, published earlier this year.

Given that DEA chief Rosenberg has demonstrated abject ignorance regarding medical cannabis, we urge President Obama to fire him immediately and appoint a chief who has a genuine comprehension of the medicinal value of cannabis. With NIDA, the National Cancer Institute, and other federal agencies slowly but surely coming around to the medical value of cannabis, the DEA remains as the last federal bastion of Reefer Madness mentality.

Please take a moment to fill out this petition to remove Rosenberg from the appointed position that he clearly is unqualified for

Sign_Petition_to_Fire_Chuck_Rosenberg


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Entrapped Autistic Teen’s Lawsuit Against School Administrators Dismissed

Entrapped Autistic Teen’s Lawsuit Against School Administrators Dismissed

Jesse Snodgrass, who has autism, was befriended by an undercover police officer who repeatedly insisted that Jesse find marijuana for him. After being harassed for nearly three weeks by the officer, Jesse was able to buy half a joint from a homeless man to give to the officer. Shortly thereafter, Jesse was arrested in front of his classmates along with 21 additional students, many of whom have special needs.

TEMECULA, CA —  Last month, the lawsuit filed by the family of Jesse Snodgrass against Temecula Valley Unified School District administrators for the teen’s manipulation and entrapment in a 2012 undercover drug sting was dismissed.

The Snodgrass family previously filed a lawsuit against Director of Child Welfare and Attendance Michael Hubbard and Director of Special Education Kimberly Velez for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other charges.

The judge dropped the case on the grounds that the defendants could not be proven as knowing participants in targeting and entrapping Jesse Snodgrass, but the primary issue of entrapping those with special needs at school remains a significant point of concern.

“Since the time of Jesse’s arrest and subsequent publicity surrounding the lawsuit, school drug stings in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties have stopped and not one child has been perp-walked in handcuffs out of their classroom,” said LADP Deputy Chief Stephen Downing (Ret.), a board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a criminal justice group working to end the War on Drugs. “But there’s nothing to stand in the way of drug warriors and their school board abettors victimizing more unsuspecting kids in the future. As a society, we have to decide that the law needs to protect children from being manipulated and lied to by authorities. It further deepens the mistrust between citizens and law enforcement and endangers and harms children and their families. ”

Jesse, who has autism, and has difficulty making friends and interpreting everyday social cues, was falsely befriended by an undercover police officer who repeatedly insisted that Jesse find marijuana for him. After being harassed for nearly three weeks via 60 text messages, Jesse was able to buy half a joint from a homeless man to give to the officer.

Jesse bought marijuana for his “friend” once more before refusing to do it again, at which point the officer ceased all communication with Jesse. Shortly thereafter, Jesse was arrested in front of his classmates along with 21 additional students, many of whom have special needs.

School drug stings, particularly those in which children with special needs are targeted, are yet another egregious manifestation of the drug war’s “tough on crime” mentality. This has long pervaded law enforcement operations and has resulted in numerous examples of dehumanizing otherwise law-abiding students. One example of this problematic attitude is found in a 1988 Drug Free School Zone implementation manual created by the Chiefs of Police National Drug Task Force in which the Chiefs refer to the process of arresting students as “taking out the garbage.”

The LAPD ceased undercover sting operations in schools in 2005, after school district officials noticed that many of the students caught in these stings had special needs and disabilities, that mostly small amounts of marijuana were involved , and that the operations were unsuccessful at reducing drug availability. The Justice Department would later confirm the findings of the report.

The Snodgrass family intends to appeal their case.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Wyoming Considers Making a Pound of Marijuana Edibles a Felony

Wyoming Considers Making a Pound of Marijuana Edibles a Felony

CHEYENNE, WY — A panel of Wyoming lawmakers is backing a bill that would make it a felony to possess a pound or more of marijuana-infused edibles as the state grapples with the legalization of recreational pot for adults by neighboring Colorado.

The draft bill that passed the Wyoming legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in a 7-6 vote would also make it a misdemeanor to possess such items as marijuana-infused brownies, candy and other goodies weighing less than a pound.

The proposal, to be introduced in the Wyoming legislature at a budget session in February, was crafted in response to the dismissal by at least two state judges of cases tied to pot edibles, said state Senator Michael Von Flatern (R-Gillette), a committee member.

The judges found that while state law makes it a felony to have three ounces of the leafy form of pot, it does not specifically criminalize marijuana-laced edibles.

It is the latest response by Wyoming lawmakers to challenges they say stem from Colorado’s legalization of recreational pot for adults, some of whom carry weed to Wyoming, particularly in the southeast corner where an interstate highway connects the capital of Cheyenne to Denver.

“We’re dealing with a new reality and trying to adapt laws to what we see happening,” said Von Flatern. The Republican from Gillette voted in favor of the measure.

Von Flatern said the committee was divided over how one could measure the concentration of the psychoactive component in marijuana, THC, in edible products.

Concerns were raised, he said, over whether someone caught with a pot brownie or cake weighing more than one pound could potentially possess an item with less THC than a person found with candy that could weigh less but be more potent.

“We realize it’s somewhat arbitrary, but we needed to take a stab at it,” the state senator said.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Double Standard? Marijuana or Hemp? DEA Raid on Indian Tribe Raises Questions

Taking advantage of a 2014 Justice Department memo giving Indian tribes a green light to participate in marijuana commerce, as well as a 2014 congressional vote allowing for industrial hemp pilot programs, Wisconsin’s Menominee Tribe earlier this year planted some 30,000 cannabis plants as part of a pilot project with the College of the Menominee Nation.

Last Friday, the DEA came and cut them all down.

The DEA says the plants were marijuana plants; the tribe says they were hemp plants. In either case, tribal officials and marijuana reform advocates don’t understand why the grow was raided. Even if it were marijuana, it appears to be an operation well within Justice Department guidelines. And that’s leading to some pointed questions about whether the feds have one standard for pot-legal states and another for the tribe-legal jurisdictions.

The memo that allows for marijuana commerce on the reservation includes eight potential enforcement triggers first formulated in a 2013 Justice Department memo (the Cole memo) advising federal prosecutors to lay off of recreational and medical marijuana operations in states where they are legal. Those triggers include diversion to other localities, money going to organized crime, and violence associated with the trade, among others.

The raid came after the tribe allowed a Bureau of Indian Affairs employee and local police to inspect the operation and take plant samples. And that visit came after a meeting between the BIA agent, the local cops, and an assistant US attorney.

According to the DEA affidavit for a search warrant, the samples tested positive for “marijuana,” although there was no measurement of THC levels in the plants.

Industrial hemp is high in fiber, but low in THC, with levels at 0.3% or less. Pot produced for the recreational market, by contrast, typically has THC levels of 15% to 20% and beyond. There is a possibility some of the plants could exceed the 0.3% limit, but not by much.

The DEA affidavit also attempted to make a case that the hemp grow was violating those Justice Department triggers. The tribe had hired Colorado cannabis consultant Brian Goldstein to consult on its grow, and Goldstein, along with Tribal Chairwoman Ruth Wapoose, had in fact guided the feds and the local cops on their tour of the operation.

But Goldstein was “white,” the affidavit noted, and several other people present appeared “non-native,” and some vehicles had Colorado plates. This, the affidavit somewhat tortuously argued, violated the memo’s provision about diversion from states where marijuana is legal to those where it is not. It seems to claim that hiring a cannabis consultant from a legal state is equivalent to importing pot from that state.

The affidavit also stretched to assert the operation was setting off other enforcement triggers. The lack of ventilation in a drying room “is a health and safety concern for the community and the individuals associated with the operation, which is a violation of the enumerated priorities listed in the Cole memorandum regarding adverse public health concerns of marijuana cultivation,” it argued.

But drying hemp stalks in closed barns is standard practice and is used by farmers around the country, including those who produced legal hemp crops this year in Colorado and Kentucky.

And security personnel guarding the property had guns, leading the BIA agent to question “the ability for the security team to have weapons for protection because it would violate the Cole memorandum.”

Now, the grow has been destroyed, any decision on criminal prosecution is in the hands of federal prosecutors, and the tribe and other observers are wondering just what is going on. After all, the Menominee aren’t the only tribe to take the Justice Department at its word, only to be raided down the road.

This past summer, the DEA hit two California tribes, the Pit River Tribe and the Alturas Indian Rancheria, seizing 12,000 plants. The feds alleged Cole memorandum violations including financing from a foreign entrepreneur and fears the marijuana would be distributed outside the reservations in ways that violated the state’s medical marijuana law. And the US attorney in South Dakota a month earlier refused to agree to lift an injunction barring Oglala Sioux tribal member Alex White Plume from growing hemp, which the Oglala Sioux Nation has legalized.

Are the tribes being held to a different standard than states where it is legal? Has there been a policy shift at Justice? Are individual federal prosecutors going off the reservation?

Menominee Tribal Chairman Gary Besaw doesn’t know, but he isn’t happy about it.

“I am deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has made the decision to utilize the full force of the DEA to raid our Tribe,” he said in a statement after the raid. “We offered to take any differences in the interpretation of the farm bill to federal court. Instead, the Obama administration sent agents to destroy our crop while allowing recreational marijuana in Colorado. I just wish the President would explain to tribes why we can’t grow industrial hemp like the states, and even more importantly, why we don’t deserve an opportunity to make our argument to a federal judge rather than having our community raided by the DEA?”

Neither was Eric Steenstra, head of the hemp industry advocacy organization Vote Hemp.

“The DEA action in this case is egregious, excessive and presents an unjust prejudice against Indian Country and the rights of sovereign tribal nations,” he said. “The Menominee Indian Tribe cultivated their industrial hemp in accordance with Federal Law, per the legislation put forth in the Farm Bill. This is a step backward, at a time when great progress has otherwise been made toward legalizing and regulating industrial hemp cultivation.”

In an interview with US News and World Report, tribal law expert Lance Morgan, a member of Nebraska’s Winnebago tribe who has worked with tribal governments pondering marijuana operations, said the Cole memorandum guidelines are not being applied consistently and warned the Menominee raid would be remembered as a historic betrayal.

“How can you allow people to buy marijuana in a retail environment in some states and then raid an industrial hemp operation of a tribe? The only difference is that there is a tribe involved,” he said. “This odd federal policy of encouraging investment and then raiding the new business sets us back a few decades in federal tribal trust and economic policy.”

The raids against tribal pot operations will kill investment in such ventures, Morgan said.

“The new federal policy of ‘sort of’ allowing tribes to get into the marijuana business is especially cruel and unusual because it encourages investment, but after the investment is made the federal government comes and shuts it down and the investors lose all their money.”

Tribal law expert and former head of New York’s Seneca Nation Robert Odawi Porter agreed that there is at least the appearance of a double standard.

“This certainly suggests a real divergence in policy approach for Indian country,” compared to the pot-legal states, which have been allowed to develop enormous marijuana industries, he said. “It increasingly looks like the Justice Department guidelines are not being interpreted in the same way as they were intended.”

It seems like the Justice Department has some explaining and clarifying to do. Can the tribes participate in the new marijuana economy like that states, or not? And does the DEA accept the legal definition and status of hemp? If not, why?


This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license from StopTheDrugWar.org and was first published here.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.