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Last week’s Boston Marathon bombings brought back a very visceral and life-changing memory for me. On September 26, 1980 I was 19, footloose and travelling in Europe with a girlfriend. We had planned the trip for a year and the highlight of it was going to be drinking beer at Germany’s world renowned Oktoberfest in Munich. If you have not been to the Oktoberfest, it is difficult to describe the immensity of it. This 16-day festival celebrating the art of beer attracts more than six million people each year. Think Mardi Gras, German style. A raucous, loud, music-blaring, beer-pouring, foot-stomping, hand-clapping party of a lifetime. We arrived early and staked out our place at the Hofbräu-Festzelt tent. The Hofbräu tent is the largest beer hall at this event, measuring over 16,000 square feet and holding 4,500 people inside, with an additional 3,200 outside. We spent the evening drinking, dancing with people of all ages, and having the time of our lives. I distinctly remember at 10:19pm I was dancing on top of a table with a beer in my hand. Why is this moment lodged in my mind?
It was at that moment my path would cross with another young student, a 21-year-old German by the name of Gundolf Köhler. What Köhler did that night is something I will never forget. At that very moment there was an explosion not inside the tent, but outside in front. The tent instantly went silent, the music stopped but only for a brief moment. We thought it could be fireworks and soon enough everyone went back to drinking, dancing and talking. That evening, the Munich Police allowed the Hofbrau tent to stay open past its normal closing time. As we were finally let out of the hall I remember being herded past a police line and realizing for the first time the explosion we heard hadn’t been fireworks, but a bomb. Köhler planted a pipe bomb in a trash can in front of the entrances to the Munich Oktoberfest, killing 13 people and injuring over 200, including himself. The frivolity of the evening shattered into instant sobriety, a reminder of the fragility of life. As the participants in the Boston Marathon viewed the carnage around them, my indelible memories of the same destruction – blood, clothing strewn across the ground, bodies covered – came streaming back. Once again, I experienced the moment that forever ended my teenage years and immediately transitioned me to adulthood.
Why is this important? The day after the Boston Marathon and the horrific bombing that just occurred? The day after 3 people died and 183 others were maimed? Because on April 16 the DEA in its infinite wisdom concluded that three Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries were more dangerous than the unidentified terrorist(s) in Boston.
We can have the discussion these raids may have been on non-compliant cannabis industry operations, but I propose it has been the State’s ineffective regulatory process which has allowed this to occur, contributing to wasting taxpayer dollars better spent on more effective crime control strategies. This point of this article, however is the waste of fiscal resources from a singularly focused agency tasked with prosecuting Americans for both the use of recreational and medical marijuana. Recently, the Orange County Weekly reported the DEA’s attempt to shut down every dispensary in the City of Santa Ana through a strategy of asset forfeiture, raids and threatening letters. But it was this quote that shows the ongoing hubris of the DEA and how they undermine California law and the will of the voters.
“A press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice last week stated that, including this most recent crackdown in Santa Ana, “federal enforcement actions – asset forfeiture lawsuits, warning letters and related activity – have now targeted more than 525 illegal marijuana businesses in the Central District of California. The majority of those businesses previously targeted are now closed, are the subject of eviction proceedings by landlords, or have been the subject of additional federal enforcement actions.”
So much of this not just angers me, but I truly believe endangers America. The DEA is an agency with a single mission and federal expenditures in excess of $2.8 Billion. They have over 9,600 employees with 85 international offices in 66 countries, as well as 226 domestic offices in the United States. The events in Boston beg the question, what could this amount of fiscal and operational resources have done if it was actually used to prevent a terrorist attack instead of preventing patients from safe access to their preferred form of medicine?
“The events in Boston beg the question, what could this amount of fiscal and operational resources have done if it was actually used to prevent a terrorist attack instead of preventing patients from safe access to their preferred form of medicine?”
President Obama, in addressing the nation, stated, “So if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil — that’s it. Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid.” Yesterday I watched law enforcement at its best, what we practice and train for, why we need well-trained tactical teams, and why we, in fact, need federal intelligence agencies. Today I watched those cops rise to this standard, making me proud of a profession of people who run toward the sound of an explosion instead of away from it. This last week I also watched the law enforcement profession at their worst as the DEA engaged in raids designed to accomplish only one thing, to instill fear and intimidation in those in the cannabis industry and to drive patients into a dangerous black market thus endangering not just patients, but all of our communities.