Update on Federal Marijuana Raids in Montana

The U.S. Attorney in Montana issued this press release today about the 26 search warrants executed yesterday in Montana. (More here.) The targets: medical marijuana businesses, which the U.S. Attorney calls "criminal enterprises."

According to the list of items to be seized, it's not just records of the businesses they were after, but customer records too:

According to the warrant, signed Thursday by U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, authorities were authorized to seize “items that are evidence of the commission of drug trafficking offenses” under federal law, including marijuana; packaging materials and related paraphernalia; cell phones, firearms; books and records.

“Books and records,” include items and “papers with names, addresses and telephone numbers, including but not limited to (those) of co-conspirators and/or persons to whom dangerous drugs have been delivered to or obtained from,” according to the warrant. Also sought: “documents and/or papers which may aid in the identification and location of customers, suppliers and/or co-conspirators.”

The U.S. Attorney insists "Individuals with illnesses who are in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law are not the focus of this investigation." Then why get a warrant for customer records? [More...]

Medical marijuana has been legal in Montana since 2004. Efforts are underway in the legislature to repeal it.

On Monday in the state Legislature, a committee deadlocked on a bill that would repeal the state’s medical marijuana law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-6 on House Speaker Mike Milburn’s House Bill 161, which would repeal the law passed by voters in 2004. Unless the deadlock is broken, the bill is dead.

Among the federal agencies involved in the raids:

[The]Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

It sure sounds like the raids were timed to coincide with the consideration of the repeal bill. These raids occurred all over the state, including: Belgrade, Big Sky, Billings, Bozeman, Columbia Falls, Dillon, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, Miles City, Missoula, Olney and Whitefish.

Montana patients are not staying silent:

[T]he patient community has quickly responded by planning coordinated vigils at various city halls across the state at 5pm on Wednesday. Tomorrow's vigils are being organized by Americans for Safe Access and sponsored by Patients and Families United and Montana Medical Growers Association, which are both statewide medical marijuana groups.

Americans for Safe Access is distributing this Raid Emergency Response Plan for businesses who fear being raided.

Jason Sullem at Reason has more on Montana's medical marijuana muddle. The problem is that Obama and AG Eric Holder's positions are vague and arbitrarily enforced, as evident from the October, 2009 memo.

The Obama Administration is not committed to allowing medical marijuana in states with laws that allow it. As I wrote here,

[T]he Holder statements and Ogden Memo are not enough protection. Short of legalization, Congress at least needs to pass a law disallowing prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state law -- or at a minimum, a law that expressly allows patients, caregivers and providers to raise compliance with state law as an affirmative defense to a federal prosecution.

Congressman Jared Polis is seeking decriminalization at the federal level. He's even appearing at industry events. I have doubts it will happen at the federal level while Obama is President. The next best thing is protection from federal prosecution. (More on Polis' efforts here.)

NORML has a live blog going on the raids.
< Clinton's Complicity In Obama Administration's Treatment Of Manning And Firing Of Crowley | Tuesday Night Open Thread >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    If They are Waiting for Obama... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 09:23:28 AM EST
    ... to do the right thing, they need to get behind people in far more need still waiting for the some relief.

    And after he decimates the Democratic Party when he gets re-elected, we are surely in for at least 8 years of Republican rule.  Which means we are looking at 2024 before we even have a chance to have a President who may agree with common sense and end this fiasco.

    And this gem, "Individuals with illnesses who are in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law are not the focus of this investigation.", from the US attorney.

    Who exactly does he think is going to be effected the most by these busts ?  Just because they aren't the focus, doesn't mean they will walk away unscathed.

    And lastly, Jeralyn.  Who knows what is in the customer files, just because they aren't required to show the illness doesn't mean they don't.  From what I have seen, there are different 'meds' for different medical conditions, so keeping track of what works best with what illness seems pretty reasonable for a medically approved medication.

    I suspect they are looking for the outliers; who is buying a lot of product and isn't registered with the state.  Which to me seems obvious, no one in their right mind would leave their actual name or CC, would they ?  If any of these places are selling under the table, they wouldn't be dumb enough to keep that information in their records, would they ?  Time will tell.

    In Texas, I hear that medical M is highly coveted and becoming more available.  It's not clear how one differentiates Colorado medical from Joe's grow room special.  

    customer record warrant (none / 0) (#1)
    by diogenes on Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 10:51:05 PM EST
    "The U.S. Attorney insists "Individuals with illnesses who are in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law are not the focus of this investigation." Then why get a warrant for customer records?"

    Gee, do you suppose that some customer records would show people whose illnesses do NOT comply with state law?  How would you find out without a warrant to see the records?

    search warrants aren't (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 01:38:39 AM EST
    supposed to be fishing expeditions. They are granted upon a showing that probable cause exists to believe evidence of a specific crime will be found in the specific place/items searched. To get a blanket warrant for customer records strikes me as facially overbroad.

    Dispensary records would not show if people had illnesses. You don't need proof on an illess to buy medical marijuana in states where it is legal, you only need a license/permit from the state. The license doesn't state your illness. Please, think before you write.


    Then you want alcohol to be illegal too, right? (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Dadler on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 09:53:59 AM EST
    Kills more people than any other drug combined.  Unless you also believe in the viral hypocrisy and uselessness of the WAR...ON...DRUGS!  kaboom!

    More of a Slow Fizzle... (none / 0) (#8)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 12:27:52 PM EST
    Uh, that's Jacob Sullum (none / 0) (#3)
    by SeeEmDee on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 06:44:14 AM EST
    Not 'Jason Sullem'.

    And as to why the Obama Administration kept on Michele Leonhart, a Bush toadie and an avowed enemy of medicinal cannabis, is beyond me.

    In his Inaugural Address to the nation, Obama claimed that national policy will be based on science, not political ideology.

    Well, if any policy is based on political ideology, it's the DrugWar. Not a single scrap of scientific evidence can support the viciousness of Federal enforcement of it. Not a bit. But this anachronistic holdover from a racially bigoted past is allowed to continue to destroy more lives than the drugs ever could.

    Obama could yank hard on Leonhart's leash, and she'd have to back off real quick...if she wants to keep her cushy, pointless job. But he hasn't, and Leonhart's been running around, ordering these raids, as if they made the slightest dent in any major drug cartel operations...which are not affiliated with MMJ, anyway.

    (The cartels wish the MMJ people would go out of business, as the MMJ people are offering a much better product than Mex brick trash, and Leonhart's accommodating the cartels with raids like this, so who's side is she on?)

    All this, on our time and dime, when there's almost universal suffering thanks to the bankster Meltdown. 'Saving the kids from drugs!' doesn't count for much when those kids are facing much worse circumstances like homelessness and hunger because Mom and Dad are unemployed and the UI bennies have run out, thanks to said Meldown.

    We just don't have money for this totally ineffective farce of a DrugWar anymore, but it seem the pols in Washington DeeCee just haven't gotten the message yet. It's long past time they did.

    that may be asking too much: (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 08:37:11 AM EST
    Please, think before you write.

    not true:

    Not a single scrap of scientific evidence can support the viciousness of Federal enforcement of it.

    there is much scientific evidence to support the cause/effect relationship between harshly enforced drug laws, and the profitability of the various industries associated with that enforcement:

    private, for-profit prisons
    continued funding/existence of the DEA
    politicians using it to get elected/re-elected

    in short, there is lots of scientific data supporting DOJ's position, just none having anything to do with pot itself.

    On the contrary, sir, (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by SeeEmDee on Wed Mar 16, 2011 at 09:48:22 AM EST
    I do, indeed, think before I write.

    I was referring to the absolute dearth of any scientific information provided during the original 1937 Congressional hearings which led to the prohibition of cannabis. What was provided in lieu of 'scientific evidence'  was pseudoscience worthy of a pulp mill novel...and in fact, provided much inspiration for such.

    And I was also referring the fact that ever since then, none of the supposed scientific evidence presented by the government to continue justifying that prohibition can withstand peer review without being subjected to the raucous laughter it deserves.

    As to the (obvious) benefit accorded to 'anti-drugs' organizations feeding at the Federal and State taxpayer-supplied slop-troughs to misinform, disinform and outright lie to continue receiving those benefits, if such a scientifically derived, peer-reviewed study exists, I am unaware of it.