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article imageU.S. marijuana policy pits law-makers against law-enforcement

By R. Francis Rubio     Dec 4, 2011 in Politics
Last week, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration led a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego, and two U.S. governors petitioned for the reclassification of of the drug and law enforcement officers who got fired.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Tuesday that 139 of the current 222 medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego were shut down by the D.E.A. last week, with authorities expecting to shut down at least 20 more in the upcoming weeks.
California law-makers legalized marijuana for medical use 15 years ago but have been at odds with federal agencies as under federal law all use and/or distribution of the drug is still deemed illegal.
Several California cities, including Los Angeles, are now considering measures to shut down marijuana dispensaries due to the difficulty to enforce local laws.
Professor Alex Kreit, from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, in San Diego has his doubts about the crackdown.
Kreit told the Tribune, "If you only had 10 places operating and you prosecute five, the other five are going to close. But if you have 200 and there's still 100 operating after these letters, well, the letters clearly haven't worked."
Adding, "I think that the places operating now are assuming that there's probably going to be a few federal prosecutions, and they are just keeping their fingers crossed hoping that it's not them."
California is among 16 other states along with the District of Columbia that have already approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes with ten other states considering the same.
Senator Gregoire  D-Washington
Senator Gregoire, D-Washington
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Meanwhile, in Rhode Island and Washington state, Governors' Lincoln Chaffee (RI) and Christine Gregoire (WA) petition the Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday, in an attempt to have marijuana reclassified from a schedule I drug to a lesser schedule II.
Schedule I drugs are determined under the Controlled Substances Act as to have no accepted medical use, therefore illegal. Schedule II drugs are determined to have some accepted use to patients and can be prescribed and dispensed under regulation.
The two governors argue that current federal law makes it extremely difficult for states that have legalized medical marijuana to effectively regulate its safely.
In their petition, Gregoire an Chaffee urge the D.E.A .to reassess their classification and hold public hearing on the issue. The petition includes statements from the American Medical Association which backup the governors' position on the matter.
"An ever-growing number of doctors now tell thousands of suffering patients they may find relief from the unique medicinal qualities of cannabis. There is simply no question that pharmacists could safely and reliably dispense cannabis to patients," said Gov. Gregoire.
Border Patrol
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent does a pat down of a Mexican being returned to Mexico.
Photo by Gerald L. Nino
The marijuana issue is not only causing debate among law-makes and governors'... It also sparks some division among border patrol agents and law-enforcement officials.
The New York Times published an article Friday about Border Patrol agent Bryan Gonzalez. In the article the Times reports how Gonzalez was fired after expressing his concerns and frustrations about the job to a colleague.
During a lull in activity along the southern border, Gonzalez confided in his fellow officer about his frustrations with the job and made some comments about the marijuana laws.
The Times writes that Gonzalez acknowledged saying, "If marijuana were legalized, the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease."
Mr. Gonzalez also made reference to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and later expressed his sympathy for illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico.
Eventually the agent's remarks found their way to Border Patrol headquarters in Washington which prompted an investigation and a swift response.
In a letter received by Gonzalez after the investigation, the agent was notified of his immediate termination. The notification said in part that Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”
Gonzalez joins the ranks of an increasing number of law enforcement officials who have lost their jobs after speaking out against the war on drugs.
Among that group is Mohave County, Arizona probation officer Joe Miller. Mr. Miller was dismissed from his job for adding his name to a letter by LEAP supporting the decriminalization of marijuana.
Miller filed suit in Federal District Court last month.
Daniel Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and council for Mr. Miller says, “More and more members of the law enforcement community are speaking out against failed drug policies, and they don’t give up their right to share their insight and engage in this important debate simply because they receive government paychecks."
More about Marijuana, Legalize marijuana, Marijuana prohibition, Border patrol, Drugs
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