As I sit and watch video after video of Monday's senseless federal raid of Oaksterdam University and other medical cannabis-related facilities managed by Richard Lee, the orchestrator of California's historic Proposition 19, a few serious concerns come to mind.
I noticed agents from at least three federal agencies: the Drug Enforcement Administration, the US Marshals Service and the Internal Revenue Service. I'm not talking about two agents here and a couple more there. There were several dozen federal agents spending their day on the scene.
Meanwhile, just blocks away, a deadly shooting was taking place. While federal agents were using a battering ram, a sledgehammer and power saws to break into a business that complies with state and local law and pays taxes, a gunman was murdering seven people at Oikos University, just three-tenths of a mile away.
As a retired police officer who wore the badge for over 30 years, this is not how I want our law enforcers to be spending their time. Rebecca Kaplan, a member of Oakland's City Council, said it best: "We have a serious gun violence problem in Oakland. If there are extra law enforcement resources available, they should be focused on fighting illegal guns and gun violence."
Beyond the human toll, what's the fiscal cost to taxpayers of this federal raid? For yesterday's multiple-hour operation, I would estimate at least $22,000 to $30,000 just in man-hours alone, for straight time and not overtime. The planning for this raid is even more draining upon man-hours, at least another $20,000. What about the many hours of investigation follow-up, which will most likely carry on for months if not longer? Throw in likely judicial cost and when all is said and done, we could be looking at a taxpayer price tag of $250,000 or more for a raid of Oaksterdam properties, which will result in... what?
Let's take a look at the results of this "successful" raid upon those who care for the sick. The first indicator of success is one of public safety. That's why we have such enforcement activity in the first place -- law enforcement and public safety should be synonymous. Will the raid make the community safer? Will there be fewer homicides? Oh, wait, there never were any on-site at Oaksterdam. They occur blocks away while we "the police" do our thing here. Will there now be fewer robberies in the neighborhood? Just the opposite: violent crime has been down in the area since Oaksterdam became operational. Well, maybe there will now be less "pot" being sold to kids in the neighborhood? Actually, expect that to increase now that any marijuana being sold in the area, post-raid, will be done by drug dealers on the corners who don't check ID. Oh yes, one more observation: Patients will no longer have access to safe medicine in safe environments. They will be forced to acquire cannabis from the dangerous illegal marketplace, lining the pockets of criminal organizations, gangs and thugs instead of universally supported local businesses that pay taxes and create jobs.
What about the success of this raid for the IRS? If their goal is to put more people out of work, causing less people to pay federal and state income taxes, call it success. If the goal is to have the state collect fewer taxes from cannabis sales, call it success. And as for the US Marshals Service, I'm still trying to figure out their role in this. Maybe it was to apprehend members of the Mexican cartel lurking in the classrooms of Oaksterdam U? Oh wait, this wasn't a cartel operation. It was a legal state and city business where employees were US citizens and members of a workers union.
It's clear to see that this raid will be far from any true success. This raid is undoubtedly counterproductive to public safety. More people out of work, a staple of business removed from the community, patients forced into the dangerous illegal marketplace, thousands if not millions of dollars back into the pockets of criminals, fewer tax dollars for the city of Oakland and homicides occurring just blocks away while so many law enforcement resources were being squandered raiding medical cannabis facilities.
Am I accusing law enforcement of being responsible for the seven murders just blocks away? No, but what I am saying is that they are misguided and focused upon those things that will not improve public safety. It is their duty and responsibility to prioritize things of public safety first, not politics.
Our commander in chief, President Obama, the head of the executive branch, carries that ultimate responsibility for the actions of federal law enforcement. Yesterday, he let the city of Oakland and this country down. At a time when 80 percent of the public supports medical marijuana, I can't for the life of me imagine how this fits into the president's reelection strategy. There's still time for President Obama to reign in the federal thugs who work for him and seem hell-bent on intimidating the medical cannabis industry out of existence, but the hour is growing late.
Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com), was a narcotics cop in Baltimore.
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