Above: John Evans, of Ypsi, places signs in protest outside of OM of Medicine, located at 112 South Man, after police raided a nearby dispensary A2 Go Green Corp. in downtown Ann Arbor on Thursday. Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
Obama DEA employs ‘smashing’ new tactic to intimidate cannabis pharmacies
The Drug Enforcement Administration in cooperation with a patchwork of Michigan state law enforcement entities has, over the past three weeks, conducted a series of cannabis dispensary searches in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti areas that have been described by the press as “smash and grab” raids.
The series of raids, including two just last week, are characterized by groups of federal drug agents, sometimes supported by local or state police, swooping into cannabis pharmacies in unmarked vans and SUVs with no sirens or flashing lights. The federal agents’ flash Michigan state warrants and seize cannabis plants and cash. In a series of raids beginning on July 30, agents did not leave copies of the state warrants at the three cannabis pharmacies that were raided.
No arrests have been made in the series of ‘smash and grab’ raids, and the raids seem to end as abruptly as they begin when cash is confiscated and dispensary employees begin photographing the raiding agents. The Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) issued a ‘raid alert’ after the Ann Arbor pharmacy raid.
In addition to these raids, three cannabis dispensaries in Detroit were raided in the past weeks by the Detroit Police using the same pattern of quick entry and quick exit. In these raids, the Detroit Police were accompanied by Michigan State Police, agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and a Detroit city code enforcement official.
Medical cannabis advocates in Michigan are concerned about the new tactics used in these DEA raids, especially in light of the fact that federal agents are serving state-issued warrants. Also of concern is the DEA’s reliance upon state police instead of local police to support the raids. Critics feel the federal agents are choosing to partner with statewide law enforcement entities to preclude local police from participating in the raids in locations, such as Ann Arbor, where there is broad public support for the use of cannabis for medical relief.
The DEA is a federal law enforcement organization within the US Justice Department, an agency under the executive branch. Just last week, a spokesperson for President Obama told the nation that “the president and the administration believe that targeting individual marijuana users, especially those with serious illnesses and their caregivers, is not the best allocation for federal law enforcement resources.”