DEA continues pot raids Obama opposes. President vowed to end policy.
Stephen Dinan and Ben Conery THE WASHINGTON TIMES Thursday, February 5, 2009
Drug Enforcement Administration agents this week raided four medical
marijuana shops in California, contrary to President Obama’s campaign
promises to stop the raids.
DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart
The White House said it expects those kinds of raids to end once Mr.
Obama nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush
“The president believes that federal resources should not be used to
circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to
fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review
their policies with that in mind,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.
Medical use of marijuana is legal under the law in California and a dozen
other states, but the federal government under President Bush, bolstered by
a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, argued that federal interests trumped state
Dogged by marijuana advocates throughout the campaign, Mr. Obama repeatedly
said he was opposed to using the federal government to raid medical
marijuana shops, particularly because it was an infringement on states’
“I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent
state laws on this issue,” Mr. Obama told the Mail Tribune newspaper in
Oregon in March, during the Democratic primary campaign.
He told the newspaper the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the
same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by
doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate.”
Mr. Obama is still filling key law enforcement posts. For now, DEA is run by
acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, a Bush appointee.
Special Agent Sarah Pullen of the DEA’s Los Angeles office said agents
raided four marijuana dispensaries about noon Tuesday. Two were in Venice
and one each was in Marina Del Rey and Playa Del Ray — all in the Los
A man who answered the phone at Marina Caregivers in Marina Del Rey said his
shop was the target of a raid but declined to elaborate, saying the shop was
just trying to get back to operating.
Agent Pullen said the four raids seized $10,000 in cash and 224 kilograms of
marijuana and marijuana-laced food, such as cookies. No one was arrested,
she said, but the raid is part of an ongoing investigation seeking to trace
the marijuana back to its suppliers or source.
She said agents have conducted 30 or 40 similar raids in the past several
years, many of which resulted in prosecutions.
“It’s clear that the DEA is showing no respect for President Obama’s
campaign promises,” said Dan Bernath, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy
Project in Washington, which advocates for medical marijuana and for
decriminalizing the drug.
California allows patients whose doctors prescribe marijuana to use the
drug. The state has set up a registry to allow patients to obtain cards
allowing them to possess, grow, transport and use marijuana.
Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group
in California, called the raids an attempt to undermine state law and said
they were apparently conducted without the knowledge of Los Angeles city or
He said the DEA has raided five medical marijuana dispensaries in the state
since Mr. Obama was inaugurated and that the first took place on Jan. 22 in
South Lake Tahoe.
“President Obama needs to keep a promise he made, not just in one campaign
stop, but in multiple speeches that he would not be spending Justice
Department funds on these kinds of raids,” Mr. Hermes said. “We do want to
give him a little bit of leeway, but at the same time we’re expecting him to
stop this egregious enforcement policy that is continuing into his
He said he is aware that Mr. Obama has not installed his own DEA chief but
that new Attorney General “Eric Holder can still suspend these types of
The Justice Department referred questions to the White House.