Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Smoke Over The Bay: A Sign of Things to Come?

UNregular Radio News: 4.3.2012 

Smoke Over The Bay: A Sign of Things to Come? 

By: KC Hoye

Picture Swiped from The LA Times
The Oakland campus of Oaksterdam University was closed by U.S. Marshals Monday morning, after a raid by agents representing the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

The joint DEA and IRS group cited sealed authority to take it to the next level, by raiding Prop 19 backer and Oaksterdam U founder Richard Lee's home as well and "detained him briefly" - AP.

Lee's school offers classes to incipient medical cannabis providers and professional home care workers. Offering training in a variety of fields ranging from horticulture, to small business management, tax preparation, the legal what's and why fors of running a dispensary in the tightly regulated city.

      "What we are doing here today is under seal," Ardett Lee (no relation to Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee) said.
        -Associated Press

Bloomberg News tells the same tale, semantical sparring aside, reporting "Federal agents raided the Oakland, California-based school today to serve a search warrant as part of a continuing investigation" citing the same source IRS Agent A. Lee.

NBC had boots on the ground, making an effort to get a handle on local coverage. Being sure to point out just where plants being removed from downtown buildings were coming from as they were loaded into trucks.
View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.

When asked how he feels about the Oaksterdam shutdown, and the mainstream media's portrayal of Monday's California raids, UNregular Radio's music director comments:

          "This is another depiction of a setback by the mainstream media, to say that legitimizing marijuana is not socially possible. ...having a college dedicating to making cannabis not only medicinally a part of your life but educationally, helps to integrate marijuana into culture."

    -Dave Crespo
     UNregular Radio Music Director

Just to be clear, Merriam Webster's definition; "'College': #2 a building used for an educational or religious purpose"

This isn't the first time we've seen the media focus on the sensational aspects of the cannabis case. The LA Times took a step in the right direction, reporting both sides of the issue of the detainment of union professionals at dispensaries.

"Dan Rush, national director of the Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division of the United Food and Commercial Workers -- which represents medical cannabis employees -- said four members were detained and questioned by federal agents Monday morning.
         'DEA officials confirmed that four people were briefly detained but said that is part of standard protocol whenever agents encounter employees while serving a search warrant. The four were detained during the search, asked basic identifying information, then released', said DEA special agent Joycelyn Barnes." - LA Times

The conflict between the federal government and large-scale growers and dispensaries nationwide has been brewing since 2009.  The now famous "Ogden Memo" gave advice to selected United States attorneys about the prosecution of cannabis users who, by following state law, found themselves in trouble with federal government.  With a single line in a letter from the Deputy Attorney General's office the boot on the neck of compassionate care workers in states with existing medical marijuana legislation lifted.

       "..pursuit of these priorities [the prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs...] should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws..." - D.A.G., D. Ogden

This sentiment was backed by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole's 2011 memo which states (even citing the Ogden Memo)

        "Accordingly, the Ogden Memo ... advised that it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law...."  - D.A.G., J.M.Cole

This seems to have been disregarded by agents that decided to detain Lee, "who is stuck in a wheelchair due to severe spinal injuries" smokes cannabis to control back spasms brought on by his injuries, aspointed out by Dig Boston's Lauren Metter.

Regardless which side of the cannabis debate someone is on, or which media outlet they get their news from, anyone who's made "that" particular lifestyle choice can agree with Rebecca Kaplan of Oakland City Council "...It certainly raises the concern that people may be targeted for their political speech."

An excellent point considering that the great state of Massachusetts is making it's own strides towards medical cannabis reform this year.  With continuing trends of federal crackdowns on cannabis, it begs the question of Massachuetts reformers spinning their wheels on the upcoming ballot.
-KC Hoye

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