Multi-Agency Drug Task Force Wastes Money and Time Harassing Wheel-Chair Bound Patient

Yesterday, the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force in southeastern New Mexico entered another skirmish in the failed war on drugs. Drug task forces typically combine local, state, and federal law enforcement officers who collaborate to take down large-scale drug dealers and crime organizations and seize large quantities of drugs. They receive their funding from a combination of state and federal sources, and the idea is generally to use these combined resources to investigate operations that are too large for one officer to handle. So how did these officers spend their time yesterday to make the Pecos Valley safer?

Officers raided and seized a marijuana grow operation from the home of Leonard French, a paraplegic man who lost the use of both of his legs in a motorcycle accident. They seized...six plants, most of which were dead, according to Mr. French. Mr. French suffers chronic pain and muscle spasms due to his spinal cord injury, and qualified as a medical marijuana patient under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act state law that passed earlier this year. Medical marijuana offers him relief with fewer side effects, he reports, than other pharmaceuticals that he's tried.

This was an obviously politically motivated stunt, the latest in a nationwide battle for patients' rights that has fronts in the 12 states that have passed medical marijuana laws, and in numerous other states that are considering such laws. This is politics at its worst, where the casualties aren't lost legislative votes, but real people who are suffering and deserve better from our federal government. The federal agents who participated in this raid should be focusing on real issues that impact public safety, not harassing sick people and intimidating law abiding citizens who just want some relief.

Polling in New Mexico and nationwide shows overwhelming support for seriously ill people who need legal access to medical marijuana. But elected officials have been slow to catch on, and the federal government's policies and lobbying are keeping patients in misery. Federal officials came to New Mexico four times in two years to lobby against this legislation. Once it passed, those of us who advocated for the legislation thought our work was done.

But as this latest raid reveals, federal agents are willing to waste time and money to intimidate these patients and prevent our medical marijuana program from being successful. Even though the law has passed, it seems that the federal government is determined to continue to fight what has already happened, and turn New Mexico into some kind of example.

Governor Bill Richardson sent a letter to President George Bush two weeks ago, calling on him to end his heartless medical marijuana policy. By doing so, he stood by the state law that he signed in April, and also stood by the New Mexicans who he was elected to represent, and who overwhelmingly support this law. If the feds want to fight this battle patient by patient, they may boost their arrest numbers but they will surely lose the support of the American people.

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