Thursday, August 07, 2008

Your Federal Tax Dollars At Work

If Congress is looking (as they should be) for budgets to trim, they can start with the DEA, who has been busting medical marijuana dispensaries in California. We're not talking street gangs and drug cartels here, we're talking legitimate tax-paying businesses operating completely above board within California state law. Just last week, the DEA "raided" a dispensary in Culver City, during its regular open business hours:
"We heard some noise outside, and then the door literally burst in, and the DEA came in in full combat gear, told everybody to get on the floor and put their hands behind their heads," Carey said. "It was like, literally, an episode of "24," when they bust in on a terrorist cell."
The DEA agents searched and handcuffed 25 people who were present on the premises, while they literally ransacked the place, dumping containers, overturning furniture, and using a steel cylinder battering ram to get into upstairs rooms. Those who were handcuffed and detained for four hours during the raid were employees of the business, and customers who come with legitimate prescriptions from doctors for conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. This is just ridiculous. The DEA obviously has too much time and money on its hands if it has time for this nonsense.

Similarly, the US Attorneys who are prosecuting these cases also need their budget cut. Have they not heard of prosecutorial discretion? Do they not have better things to prosecute? In another case, just the other day, a jury convicted the owner of a Morro Bay medical marijuana dispensary.
Prosecutors David Kowal and Rasha Gerges sought to portray Lynch as a common drug dealer who flouted federal law by selling about $2 million worth of marijuana from the time he opened his dispensary in spring 2006 until it was raided last year.

They told jurors he sold drugs to young people "not yet old enough to legally drink" and carried around his proceeds in a backpack stuffed with cash.

"We're pleased with the fact that the jury followed the law," Gerges said. "And they came to the right result."
Turns out the "young people not old enough to legally drink" was actually one high school student diagnosed with bone cancer, who had a prescription for the marijuana from a Stanford University oncologist, and which marijuana was obtained from the dispensary by his parents. Unfortunately, the jury was not allowed to hear that. What a miscarriage of justice. If these smug self-satisfied attorneys think they're doing the people of the United States any good service, I think I see some potential staffing cuts.

And then of course there's this (courtesy hilzoy):
So: after seven years, we have convicted Osama bin Laden's driver of, well, being his driver and bodyguard. That was totally worth setting up a brand new court system that throws out what have always been basic American legal standards.

Moreover, all that stripping away of rights got us nothing, since Hamdan had always admitted being bin Laden's driver and bodyguard. However, creating a whole new court system not only ensures a whole raft of appeals that would have been unnecessary had we used standard civilian or military courts, but also left open one huge problem: it's not clear that any of the things Hamdan was convicted of were actually crimes at the time he committed them.
Brilliant. To sum up:
  • cost of high-security detention complex and "expeditionary legal complex": about $65 million
  • annual cost of operating Guantanamo: $90 to 118 million
  • cost of trashing the Constitution in order to get bin Laden's driver put away for four years: priceless

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