Note: “It Keeps the DEA in Business” is also Part 12 of Ten Reasons Why MMJ is Cannabis Commerce’s Ball and Chain, found in its entirety here.

How’d you like this guy hunting you down? Keep voting for MMJ initiatives instead of repealing prohibition — that thrill could be yours. Patient rights groups believe it’s possible to build “protection” against these dudes into MMJ amendments. They’ve got a better chance asking Don Corleone for protection on the day of his daughter’s wedding.

Marijuana activists can steer one of two courses:

  • Taking what MLK termed “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” [detailed in Reason 6], that is, passing crippled medical marijuana initiatives state-by-state.
  • Allying with forces working to repeal federal marijuana prohibition — forces currently receiving little or no publicity — Cannabis Commerce’s voice crying in the wilderness notwithstanding.

Take a wild guess which one keeps the DEA in business?

The answer is obvious — even if no one could blame you for not realizing a choice even exists.

All you’re hearing and reading elsewhere is MMJ 24/7. Yet there’s a solid alternative to passing medical marijuana initiatives guaranteed to hogtie cannabis commerce.

That alternative is repealing prohibition.

Remember that?

Think back, way back to 2009, before medical married marijuana. “Legalize it” didn’t mean “medical marijuana.” It was all marijuana.

Approving crippled MMJ legislation sends the these messages to the DEA and the nation at large:

  1. I am not worthy. I don’t believe my cause, herbal rights, rates the freedom other rights causes that preceded it [civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights] achieved after hard-won struggles. I am caving in by accepting a fraction of the freedom my birthright entitles me to. I agree to all the terms of surrender. It’s OK with me if local, state or federal governments decide to change those terms of surrender to harsher terms — any time they feel like it. Kick me. Beat me. Put me in chains.
  2. I’m ignoring “ask and ye shall receive,” sage advice courtesy of the man from Galilee. Instead, I’ve opted for “don’t ask and ye shan’t receive.”
  3. I agree that it’s perfectly OK for cannabis to be subjected to peculiar and ever-changing regulations that no other substance in history has been saddled with as long as I can buy a couple of joints today.
  4. I can’t be trusted to make decisions for myself. Therefore, from this day on, I appoint city, county, state, and federal governments to be my nanny — and the DEA to enforce nanny’s whims and dictums.
  5. I agree with the DEA’s assessment that cannabis is a Schedule One drug. That also means I agree we shouldn’t be researching cannabis’ promising capability to fight cancerous tumors — federal law forbids clinical studies on Schedule One drugs.
  6. I agree to this deal with the devil in the sincere hope that the DEA leaves me alone, like the big bad wolf left the three little pigs alone.
  7. I agree that people can be arrested to the tune of 800,000 a year for marijuana offenses as long as I get “safe access to meds” in exchange.
  8. It’s fine with me if 45,000 people remain in prison for marijuana “offenses.” They aren’t my problem. It’s also OK with me if this number keeps increasing exponentially, as long as I can buy an activated brownie at a nearby dispensary.
  9. I agree that the Drug Enforcement Agency should be funded for the long haul, as opposed to disbanded like yesterday.
  10. I agree that no one should ever profit from “selling drugs.

Dallas district DEA headquarters. There are 21 DEA districts.

Despite tripping over themselves to give away their power to the DEA, organizers in some prospective medical marijuana states are hoping against hope that they can build “protection” against the same militant outfit into the language of their proposed amendments.

The gist of these is, “Would you please not blow my house down?”

Patient-centric groups — like my good buddies over at Americans for Safe Access (ASA) — are aghast they don’t have protection already. They could certainly use some protection. ASA points to a 2009 memo from President Obama, delivered by administration mouthpiece Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, suggesting the feds might want to call off the dogs in MMJ states.

Here’s the pertinent part:

As a general matter, they [the DEA] should not focus federal resources on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. —David Ogden in “The Ogden Memo”

A “general matter,” whatever that is, falls far short of an executive order commanding the DEA to stand down. Does ASA actually expect DEA agents to twiddle their thumbs all day long at taxpayers’ expense? It would appear that the answer is, “yes.”


Do you really think those rough-and-ready dudes are getting into the spirit of cooperation with ASA, playing ping-pong, working on Sudoku puzzles, and painting Tibetan sand mandalas from 9–5? C’mon. They’re looking for fields to eradicate and “drug profits” to seize. That’s what the DEA does. That’s what every American taxpayer including you pays them to do.

In case you’ve come lately to this mirth and merriment, federal law clearly and unambiguously states that marijuana is a 100% illegal Schedule One drug along with heroin, cocaine, and Oxycontin. The federal government provides ample budget and manpower for the DEA to pursue, prosecute, and incarcerate marijuana “offenders.”

Laws passed in medical marijuana states may or may not supersede federal antidrug laws or provide “patients” and businesses that jumped through all the necessary hoops with get-out-of-jail free cards.

Where these sets of black and white laws intersect, gray areas form.

What’s not gray is the undisputable fact that a memo is as far away from a law as the Milky Way is from the Andromeda galaxy.

No, the highly-compensated clinicians employed at this spanking new DEA drug lab won’t be going on permanent siesta due to some vague memo issued in 2009.

ASA and patient-centric groups struggle with this unalterable reality,

You know that scene in Goldfinger when James Bond plays golf with Goldfinger and Oddjob caddies? DEA special agents must be prepared — they could find themselves golfing with Pablo Escobar.

They somehow miss the point that the DEA, with over 10,800 employees, including at least 5,500 special agents on its payroll, has a mission to carry out. These special agents joined an enforcement agency because they had a hankering for action,  adventure, and annihilation — not suspended animation.

By the way, if the notion of setting fire to fields or seizing immense stashes of cash sounds appealing, contact Special Agent Recruiter Mark Waller at 212-337-2941.

If everyone remains fixated on MMJ  in the USA, you could enjoy a long and prosperous career.

According to the DEA’s always entertaining website, which presents psychedelic Jimi Hendrix posters as hard evidence of the deadly peril which must be stamped out, displays a wall of plaques commemorating the heroic DEA agents who died in the line of duty when they happened upon fields not patrolled by hippy peaceniks, and celebrates the capture of a drug-running super-submarine:

Becoming a Special Agent with the DEA is a competitive process. After receiving a conditional offer of employment, recruits must then make it through a 16 week rigorous training which consist of firearms proficiency including basic marksmanship, weapons safety, tactical shooting, and deadly force decision training. In order to graduate, students must maintain an academic average of 80 percent on academic examinations, pass the firearms qualification test, successfully demonstrate leadership and sound decision-making in practical scenarios, and pass rigorous physical task tests. Upon graduation, recruits earn themselves the title of DEA Special Agent.

Speaking of rigorous physical tasks, I would supplement the curriculum to include specialized training in “how to pick up chicks.”

After all, lotsa hot chicks are femme fatale drug fiends.

The DEA has buildings and training facilities throughout the United States — and all over the globe. Or were you unaware that the DEA maintains 83 foreign offices in 63 countries?

The world is our oyster.

If we colonize Mars, the DEA will undoubtedly deploy a mating couple to insure that over the eons colonists will remain on the straight and narrow.

Contrary to what some might think, the DEA, like the universe, is expanding, not contracting.

It’s not exactly nap time 24/7 at all these DEA installations around DC.

To be precise, the DEA has 226 Domestic Offices in 21 Divisions throughout the U.S., maintaining division offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, El Paso, Denver, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, and Newark.

The main DEA fortress in Arlington, VA. is one of nineteen DEA-connected buildings in and around the District of Columbia.

Oh, and its budget exceeds $2.4 billion.

So, with about 11,000 employees to keep occupied, and $2.4 billion allocated toward that end, when the DEA huffs and puffs about how it doesn’t necessarily recognize every state’s oddball medical marijuana policies, it can blow that house down.

Pig #3 is no longer present and accounted for. His dispensary was closed down and he was sent packing. He didn’t have the courage to tackle pot prohibition. He thought his state’s MMJ laws would “protect” him from the big, bad wolf. Mmm … maybe not.

The current widely-circulated lead story at the DEA site leaves no room for doubt:

California’s Top Federal Law Enforcement Officials Announce Enforcement Actions Against State’s Widespread and Illegal Marijuana Industry

OCT 7 — SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The four California-based United States Attorneys today announced coordinated enforcement actions targeting the illegal operations of the commercial marijuana industry in California.

The statewide enforcement effort is aimed at curtailing the large, for-profit marijuana industry that has developed since the passage of California’s Proposition 215 in 1996. That industry has swelled to include numerous drug-trafficking enterprises that operate commercial grow operations, intricate distribution systems and hundreds of marijuana stores across the state — even though the federal Controlled Substances Act makes illegal the sale and distribution of marijuana.

The operative word is illegal. The word “widespread” was carefully selected to make you feel unsafe because the threat is all around you. When you feel unsafe and threatened, fascist measures employed to “insure your safety” are justified. Like closing down another 400 dispensaries to show the DEA wasn’t whistling Dixie.

I’ll reserve analysis of the dirty words “for profit” for a future article; I’m not going after the DEA much here because it’s a target already already, the criticism is neither new or fresh, and I can’t blame the agency for carrying out its mandate. Obviously, the bigger villain to me is patient rights groups who have demonstrated no feel for playing David to the DEA’s Goliath. It’s the groups that have been given a free pass so far, that have been begging to be taken to task, that find themselves in Cannabis Commerce’s crosshairs. A Chief Executive, who for the life of him cannot conceive of cannabis as an economic contributor, is also squarely in those sights.

That would be the same President who’s opted to stand down as the DEA reasserts its might.

But the problem is hardly confined to patient rights groups and the Chief Executive.

The phantasmagoric reality is that the entire country has gone ga-ga over medical marijuana at the same time it’s completely lost sight of repealing prohibition. That serves to embolden the DEA’s resolve to let everyone know, in no uncertain terms, that it’s still a player. Make that a big player. A very big player delaying its ride into the sunset as long as possible.

It may be big, it may be entrenched, and it might appear to be impregnable, but a tremendously powerful yet nonviolent weapon exists that can and will blast the DEA from here to eternity.

Repealing prohibition via marching on Washington in unprecedented numbers is the slingshot that can fell the DEA. That will dismantle it, vaporize it, and, to borrow its favorite word, eradicate it. At the very least, the agency would be neutered to the point of irrelevance.

Herbal rights, the only individual liberty left Washington hasn’t been forced by heroic marchers to “grant,” is a noble concept.

You’d think people would be all over it.

But they’re not.

Not by a long shot.

That’s because there’s a crisis in leadership.

NORML, the activist group that’s best known and has been around the longest, has a startling history of ineffectiveness. It’s lost the War For Drugs as certainly as the DEA’s lost the War Against Drugs.

Even the Drug Policy Alliance, formed to fight the “War on Drugs,” is on record as advocating MMJ only. It believes that cannabis should be legal “for the medicinal purposes of severely ill individuals.”

Why are the media, politicians, and patient rights groups [which, alas, NORML has morphed into] agonyizingly shortsighted?

Periodically, collective insanity prevails.

The most notable example in US history is Congress’ 1964 reaction to then President Lyndon B. Johnson’s imploration to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, for all intents and purposes a declaration of war on North Vietnam. History has shown that a made up incident, an attack by North Vietnamese gunboats on a US warship — which just happened to be cruising through the Gulf of Tonkin, maybe it veered off course cause it was foggy off the coast of Kauai or something — was the rationale LBJ provided for escalating an “unofficial war.”

In congress, only Senators Wayne Morse from Oregon and Ernest Gruening from Alaska stood against it. The House of Representatives passed it 416–0.

Then it was déjà vu all over again in 2001, when Congress unanimously gave George Bush the power to rush to war in Iraq, the better to seek out weapons of mass destruction which never existed.

How do those decisions look now?

One of the DEA’s biggest prizes: a captured drug-running super-submarine.

I’ll leave you with one more instance of collective insanity. Let’s go way back to 2006, when a dramatic and artificial increase in home values and the stock market housing market was peaking. The popular message was: buy, buy more, buy all the houses you can, buy all the stocks you can. Prices will keep rising 10, 20, even 50 percent a year.

Collective insanity. Then the bubble burst.

Well, this medical marijuana bubble’s going to burst.

Then everyone will realize that in 2011 fixating on crippled MMJ initiatives as opposed to working to repeal federal prohibition was collectively insane, too.

Meanwhile, the fact virtually all herbal rights activists remain focused on “winning” crippled MMJ legislation is met with unbridled joy by the DEA. The drug czar is singing in the shower over it, because activists’ lack of self-belief preserves the good old boy network he presides over — and all is well.

Without an immediate course correction, taxpayers will continue footing the bill for DEA salaries and retirement funds.

As things stand, patient rights groups might as well adopt the following slogan: “Medical Marijuana — Keeping the DEA in Business.”