Tag Archives: DEA

DEA Knowingly Let Admitted Addicts, Dealers Prescribe Drugs

(DCNF) Admitted drug addicts and dealers were among the hundreds of thousands of people and businesses the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) licensed to manufacture, distribute or prescribe pharmaceuticals over the past 12 years, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has found. The agency stripped only 240 licenses for wrong-doing over the same period.

The DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, which is responsible for issuing and revoking the permits, is, by law, fully funded by the licenses’ application fees. More than 1.7 million individuals and organizations held licenses as of March 2018 — an increase of more than 510,000 since August 2006, the earliest publicly available data, TheDCNF’s review found.

“The office … has not been very aggressive in hunting down doctors [who] are prescribing in inappropriate ways,” said Carnegie Mellon University Professor Jonathan Caulkins, who’s worked extensively in drug policy. “The DEA does not aggressively try to find corrupt or incompetent health care providers in the health care system.”

Effective enforcement is especially important given the growing opioid epidemic, Caulkins added. More than 200,000 Americans died from prescription drug overdoses between 1999 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most heroin users begin their addiction with such prescriptions, studies have shown.

The DEA ruled on 430 investigations into licensed individuals and groups since March 2006. The agency only revoked 240 licenses and denied applications for another 106, according to a DCNF review of the investigations.

“It is not really believable from my perspective that if they had proper enforcement … that that number [of revocations] would be so low,” Public Citizen’s Health Research Group Founder and Senior Adviser Sidney Wolfe told TheDCNF. “We don’t have adequate, serious law enforcement that musters all of the evidence they have and then acts appropriately. If we did, that number would be in the thousands.”

Most states maintain databases with information about how prescription drugs are dispensed, Wolfe also noted.

“I would bet DEA itself does not collect the data from these states that could be useful in deciding if it’s safe to re-register someone,” Wolfe added. “It’s poor law enforcement. These are crucial, life-challenging things that are going on.”

Meanwhile, the DEA gave out licenses to people who admitted to having been addicted to or dealt drugs in the past.

One dentist, for example, admitted to helping “an outlaw motorcycle gang” manufacture methamphetamine in the early 2000s, which resulted in two years of jail time, a DEA document said. He’d previously been caught with meth several times and admitted to “a history of substance abuse with alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine.”

The DEA gave him a license to prescribe certain drugs in September 2013.

A doctor was caught distributing cocaine in 1981 but wasn’t prosecuted because he cooperated with authorities, another DEA document shows. He was arrested again in 2001 with cocaine and two prescription drugs — an opioid and a minor tranquilizer — and pleaded guilty to related charges in 2003.

The DEA gave him a license to prescribe drugs in February 2009.

“The number of doctors themselves [who] have opioid problems is probably higher than the number of [revocations],” Wolfe told TheDCNF. “If you have an opioid addiction, the last thing you should be doing is prescribing opioids.”

However, “doctors have a relatively high risk of addiction” and there is rehabilitation specifically designed for physicians, Caulkins said.

Also, 72 percent “of all substances identified in physician arrests since 2003 were opioids,” according to a recent Detox.net study that analyzed DEA data.

Government watchdogs have also repeatedly criticized the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control.

Even when the DEA revokes a license or denies an application or renewal, the decision-making process can be lengthy, the Department of Justice’s inspector general (IG) found in 2014. It took the agency an average of nearly two years to make a final decisions on cases in 2009, though that decreased to just one year by 2012.

“Such delays can create risks to public health and safety by allowing noncompliant registrants to operate their business or practice while the registrant action is being adjudicated,” the IG wrote. For example, a doctor can keep writing prescriptions — even after the DEA proposed revoking his license — until a ruling is made.

Just one doctor prescribing medications in an abusive manner could harm hundreds of patients, according to Wolfe.

Just one percent of special agents’ investigative time in 2005 was spent on drug diversion probes, according to a 2006 IG report. Intelligence analysts, likewise spent just over five percent of their time on such investigations that same year.

The report cited a 2004 survey that found 2.4 million people “used prescription pain relievers non-medically for the first time within the past 12 months. This number was the largest number of new users for any type of illicitly used drug during that same time period.”

Additionally, the number of people who admitted to abusing prescription drugs between 1992 and 2003 nearly doubled, according to another study the IG cited.

Still, the DEA provided little instruction in the way of investigating prescription drug trafficking.

“DEA special agents have received minimal diversion control training,” the report stated. At the time of the report, only 98 special agents had taken a week-long course, while the rest had only received a two-hour session during basic training that consisted of a video from 1996.

The video was produced the same year OxyContin was made publicly available, which critics have widely blamed for initiating the opioid epidemic. The prescription painkiller’s manufacturer — Sackler Family owned Purdue Pharma — launched an aggressive and deceptive marketing campaign promoting the drug.

In fact, company representatives downplayed OxyContin’s addictiveness and consequently paid nearly $635 million in 2007 — just one year after the IG report was published — Purdue and three top executive admitted in court.

Doctors can spend years in jail if they’re caught overprescribing opioid medications, but the Purdue executives only had to pay a fine, Wolfe pointed out.

Purdue, which is now facing hundreds of lawsuits around the U.S., raked in $35 billion in OxyContin sales between the time of its release and 2015, helping The Sacklers become one of the nation’s wealthiest families with a $13 billion net worth, according to Forbes.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional watchdog, also found problems with the diversion office — specifically regarding its ability to monitor individuals with licenses to prescribe drugs.

More than 760 people of the then-1.4 million registered with the DEA “were potentially ineligible” for licenses because the Social Security Administration reported them as dead, they did not have state-level permission to prescribe or distribute controlled substances or “were incarcerated for felony offensesrelated to controlled substances,” the 2016 GAO report stated.

Also, nearly 700 Social Security numbers in the DEA’s database were registered to multiple names or variations of names, “which can be a risk indicator of potential fraud,” the report showed.

Another nearly 42,000 entries in the DEA’s database listed an employer identification number rather than a Social Security number, the GAO found, which makes it more difficult to conduct background checks and prevent fraudulent identities.

In fact, one person convicted of defrauding Medicare in June 2013 was still actively registered with the DEA to dole out drugs as of January 2016, the GAO pointed out. The drug agency had no notes about the crime in its system.

Additionally, the DEA doesn’t conduct criminal background checks after an individual receives their license unless the crime is either self-reported or if the state of practice informs the agency, according to the GAO report.

Although the DEA’s diversion control office is supposed to be fully funded through the fees people pay to acquire the drug licenses, it’s faced periods of especially tight budgets, according to a 2008 IG report.

“I do think it is odd that the office has to be funded out of licensee fees,” Caulkins told TheDCNF. “It should be funded at whatever level it takes to get the job done. Perhaps that is less than the license fee revenue. Perhaps it is more.”

“It seems quite arbitrary to imagine that license fee revenue would end up magically providing just the right level of funding,” he continued. “But DEA would have to revoke an awful lot of licenses to seriously hurt that revenue stream (and it could presumably increase the size of the license fee by one percent to offset the losses).”

The DEA, for example, raised registration fees for the first time in 10 years in October 2003 in part to respond “to the threat of OxyContin abuse,” according to the IG report.

The DEA expected to rake in $238 million in 2006 but fell short by $75 million — or about one-third of the agency’s projection — the IG found. In 2007, the DEA settled a lawsuit that increased the amount the agency had to pay diversion investigators for overtime, which put additional financial restrictions on the diversion control office.

Consequently, the diversion office was forced to tighten its purse strings, according to the IG report.

“We found that overtime, travel and equipment purchases had been limited during the period of our review” as a result of the lawsuit and the revenue shortfalls, the report stated.

The DEA collected $235 million in fees in 2009, which increased by about 40 percent — or $93 million — by 2013, according to a 2015 GAO report. The number of registrants, meanwhile, increased by roughly 15 percent over the same period, TheDCNF’s review found.

The DEA’s role and effectiveness in fighting the opioid epidemic has also recently come under fire.

One West Virginia county with a population of less than 3,000 was flooded with nearly 21 million opioid pills from two pharmaceutical wholesalers over roughly a 10-year period, a House Committee on Energy and Commerce investigation found. Republicans and Democrats alike scrutinized the DEA for failing to stop the pill dumping.

Lawmakers have also grilled the DEA for its lack of cooperation in the committee’s investigation, and the agency has faced subpoena threats for slow-walking the release of related documents.

Additionally, pharmaceutical companies hired high-ranking DEA officials after leaving the agency, a joint Washington Post and “60 Minutes” investigation found. The agency also began to limit how often it immediately suspended pharmaceutical distributors that were shipping suspiciously large volumes of pills.

The DEA ultimately didn’t oppose a 2016 bill pharmaceutical industry-backed members of Congress sponsored and co-sponsored that essentially eliminated the agency’s ability to use such suspensions, the investigation found. The legislation consequently passed with unanimous consent, and then-President Barack Obama signed it without question.

Both Caulkins and Wolfe noted the power pharmaceutical companies hold in forming policy and legislation, which has helped bind the DEA.

“There’s enormous influence in this industry,” Wolfe told TheDCNF.

The DEA did not respond to requests for comment.

Andrew Kerr and Grace Carr contributed to this report.

Written by Ethan Barton: Follow Ethan on TwitterSend tips to ethan@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.


This article was republished with permission from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Senators Call on Sessions, DOJ to Stop Blocking Federal Medical Marijuana Research

Washington, D.C. – Two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a known anti-drug crusader, to cease reported efforts by the Drug Enforcement Agency to slow medical marijuana research, following reports that the Department of Justice was blocking medical marijuana research efforts by delaying approvals for manufacturers growing research-grade medical marijuana, according to a letter from the bipartisan duo to Sessions.

“We write to request that you enable the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fulfill its charter of lawfully registering manufacturers of the controlled substance of marijuana for research without delay. Research on marijuana is necessary to resolve critical questions of public health and safety, such as learning the impacts of marijuana on developing brains and formulating methods to test marijuana impairment in drivers.”  

The DEA continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance — which on a federal level, officially means it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Currently, more than half of the United States; thirty states, as well as the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form – with eight states and D.C. allowing recreational use.

While The Hill reports that the DEA has been open to medical research regarding marijuana, evidenced by a change in policy nearly two years ago to allow for more suppliers because of the growing interest in researching more medical uses of the drug, the senators are concerned about reports that Sessions’ Department of Justice is “blocking the DEA from taking action on more than two dozen requests to grow marijuana for use in research,” which has resulted in only one manufacturer to date, the University of Mississippi, being licensed to produce cannabis for federal research.

At least 25 manufacturers have formally applied to grow federally approved “research grade” cannabis, but none of those applications have been approved by the DEA, and according to Harris and Hatch.

In a letter sent Thursday, the bipartisan duo of senators wrote:

Research on marijuana is necessary for evidence-based decision making, and expanded research has been called for by President Trump’s Surgeon General, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the FDA, the CDC, the National Highway Safety Administration, the National Institute of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Academies of Sciences, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse”…

“The benefits of research are unquestionable. Research will give law enforcement guidance to do their jobs: protecting drivers on the roads, protecting kids in schools, and maintaining law and order. Ninety-two percent of veterans support federal research on marijuana, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is aware that many veterans have been using marijuana to manage the pain of their wartime wounds. America’s heroes deserve scientifically-based assessments of the substance many of them are already self-administering. By allowing expanded research, the Department of Justice will aid legislators in making sound decisions, help law enforcement in developing critical public safety guidance, and ensure that citizens have the benefit of informed, evidence-based policy.

Research on marijuana is necessary to resolve critical questions of public health and safety, such as learning the impacts of marijuana on developing brains and formulating methods to test marijuana impairment in drivers.

The letter from the senators asked Sessions for a “commitment to resolve all outstanding applications by Aug. 11, 2018 at the latest (exactly two years since the DEA announced its policy change).

The full letter to Sessions is below.

Dear Attorney General Sessions:                                                                           

We write to request that you enable the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fulfill its charter of lawfully registering manufacturers of the controlled substance of marijuana for research without delay. Research on marijuana is necessary to resolve critical questions of public health and safety, such as learning the impacts of marijuana on developing brains and formulating methods to test marijuana impairment in drivers.  

To date, it has been federal practice that only one manufacturer — the University of Mississippi — is licensed to produce marijuana for federally-sanctioned research. Historically, as the DEA has noted, that single manufacturer could meet the minimal demand for research. However, the DEA changed its policy nearly two years ago because, as it explained, “There is growing public interest in exploring the possibility that marijuana or its chemical constituents may be used as potential treatments for certain medical conditions,” and the DEA — along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — “fully supports expanding research into the potential medical utility of marijuana and its chemical constituents.”   

As of August 11, 2016, 354 individuals and institutions were approved by the DEA to conduct expansive research on marijuana and its related components. Those researchers needed access to a federally compliant expanded product line—they needed to study different types of marijuana and across various delivery mechanisms. Accordingly, a diverse, DEA-vetted market of suppliers of research-grade marijuana would be critical. Since the DEA’s Federal Register Notice on August 12, 2016, at least 25 manufacturers have formally applied to produce federally-approved research-grade marijuana.

Last August, The Washington Post reported that you have been blocking these efforts: “The Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has effectively blocked the Drug Enforcement Administration from taking action on more than two dozen requests to grow marijuana to use in research.”

When asked by Senator Hatch at a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing to clarify DOJ’s role in processing these applications, you said, “I think it would be healthy to have some more competition in the [federally-approved research-grade marijuana] supply, but I’m sure we don’t need 26 new suppliers.” Nevertheless, the supply needed for research is clearly not meeting the demand. There are currently two bipartisan bills before the Senate Judiciary Committee that would streamline the obtuse process for researchers to receive federal permission to study marijuana. Those bills and the strong popular support they have received are indicative of the nation’s demand for marijuana to be thoroughly researched.  

We write this letter because research on marijuana is necessary for evidence-based decision making, and expanded research has been called for by President Trump’s Surgeon General, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the FDA, the CDC, the National Highway Safety Administration, the National Institute of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Academies of Sciences, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In order to facilitate such research, scientists and lawmakers must have timely guidance on whether, when, and how these manufacturers’ applications will be resolved.

The benefits of research are unquestionable. Research will give law enforcement guidance to do their jobs:protecting drivers on the roads, protecting kids in schools, and maintaining law and order. Ninety-two percent of veterans support federal research on marijuana, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is aware that many veterans have been using marijuana to manage the pain of their wartime wounds. America’s heroes deserve scientifically-based assessments of the substance many of them are already self-administering.

By allowing expanded research, the Department of Justice will aid legislators in making sound decisions, help law enforcement in developing critical public safety guidance, and ensure that citizens have the benefit of informed, evidence-based policy.

 Nineteen months have elapsed since the DEA announced its request for expanded marijuana research. To ensure that the DOJ resolves these applications in a timely fashion, allowing the DEA to fulfill its charter, we request that by May 15, 2018, you provide:

·  Notice of the date that the Department of Justice expects to complete its review of these applications so that the DEA may grant these new suppliers a license to produce marijuana for federally approved research;

·  Notice to applicants of the timeline for resolution and the status of their applications;

·  Notice of actions you have taken to review applications since October 18, 2017, when you testified before the Judiciary Committee that competition among federally-approved marijuana producers would be “healthy;” and

· A commitment to resolve applications by August 11, 2018, at the latest (exactly two years since the DEA announced its policy change).


Lawsuit Forces DEA to Destroy Millions of Americans’ Phone Calls

In December, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch celebrated a victory after their lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration led to the conclusion of a program monitoring Americans’ phone calls overseas. The DEA also told the court that a database storing millions of Americans’ collected phone records has been destroyed.

The EFF and Human Rights Watch filed suit in April after USA Today reported that the DEA had been secretly and illegally collecting billions of records from phone calls placed to hundreds of foreign nations. After an 8 month battle, HRW agreed to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit after the U.S. government assured the organization that the mass collection of data had ceased and the only database with billions of phone records had been purged. The DEA made the promise under penalty of perjury.

A federal judge previously forced the government to respond to questions from HRW regarding the data collection program. The government attempted to convince the judge that there was no reason to rule on the legality of the program since it had already ended and the data had been deleted.

New details about the program were released through the government’s discovery responses. The government’s responses show that the DEA’s database was allegedly only searched when the government had “reasonable articulable suspicion” that the number was associated with an ongoing criminal investigation.

The DEA also says that call records older than two years were regularly deleted and the program reportedly went “off-line” in August 2013. As of January 2015, the DEA claims that the bulk database had been deleted, including any temporary files.

Despite the destruction of this single database, the U.S. government continues to monitor the activity of innocent Americans through a host of other programs and agencies.

As the EFF notes, “the government still retains some illegally collected records, and they’ve admitted as much.” This data collection includes gathering of phone records by the NSA under Section 702 of the FAA and under EO 12,333. Still, the EFF sees the outcome of the lawsuit as a win for privacy.

“Nevertheless, the end of the NSA’s domestic bulk collection and now the confirmed end of the DEA’s program represents a significant step forward in curtailing some of these abuses.”

What are your thoughts? Do you believe the DEA has stopped monitoring calls to foreign nations? Leave your thoughts below.

Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

A bill was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would end federal prohibition on marijuana and allow legalization to be determined by the states.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 states that it would limit the application of federal laws to the distribution and consumption of marijuana, ultimately removing all references to cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act.

[RELATED: Colorado Becomes First State to Generate More Tax Revenue From Marijuana than from Alcohol Sales]

The Huffington Post noted that Sanders’s bill is modeled after one that was proposed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in 2013 and reintroduced in 2015 as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.

“Just as alcohol prohibition failed in the 1920s, it’s clear marijuana prohibition is failing today,” Polis said. “For decades, the federal ban on marijuana has wasted tax dollars, impeded our criminal justice system, lined the pockets of drug cartels, and trampled on states’ ability to set their own public health laws.”

Polis described the introduction of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act in the Senate as “a huge step forward in the movement to enact the commonsense drug laws needed to grow our economy and restore fairness to our justice system.”

Although recreational marijuana is legal in Washington, Alaska, ColoradoOregon and the District of Columbia, it remains illegal under federal law.

[RELATED: Reality Check: U.S. Non-Violent Drug Offenders Incarceration Rate is Shameful]

Leslie Bocskor, a managing partner of Electrum Partners, a medical marijuana consulting firm, told Yahoo News that he believes removing marijuana from the federal government’s list of banned substances would “alleviate several unwanted byproducts of the U.S. war on drugs.”

[pull_quote_center]This includes reducing our rate of incarceration for nonviolent offenders, addressing racial injustice enabled by the criminalization of marijuana not to mention increased tax revenue, a regulated marketplace keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, job creation, the destruction of criminal cartels by removing their revenue streams and keeping wealth in the communities that have established regulated frameworks.[/pull_quote_center]

The Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana reform organization, noted that while Sanders’ bill is the fourth one seeking marijuana policy reform, it is the first bill that actually proposes the end of federal marijuana prohibition.

While cannabis has been known to help with diseases such as cancer, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease, the Drug Enforcement Administration defines marijuana as a Schedule I drug, or one of “the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

On the DEA’s list of drugs, marijuana is alongside substances including heroin, LSD and ecstasy, while cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone are listed as less hazardous Schedule II drugs.

Last year, Ben Swann examined the federal government’s classification of marijuana, seen in the video below. While marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, the government also holds patents on the substance to treat various diseases and conditions.


Menominee Indian Tribe Says DEA Destroyed Hemp Crop

The Menominee Indian Tribe says that the Drug Enforcement Administration raided what it characterized as a legal hemp crop last Friday. DEA officials acknowledged the raid over the weekend, but claimed that it was 30,000 marijuana plants, not hemp plants, that were seized during the raid on 20 acres of tribal property.

Menominee Indian Tribe Chairman Gary Besaw said in a statement:

[pull_quote_center]I am deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has made the decision to utilize the full force of the DEA to raid our Tribe. We were attempting to grow industrial hemp for research purposes in accordance with the Farm Bill. We offered to take any differences in the interpretation of the Farm Bill to federal court. Instead, the Obama administration sent agents to destroy our crop while allowing recreational marijuana in Colorado. I just wish the President would explain to tribes why we can’t grow industrial hemp like the states, and even more importantly, why we don’t deserve an opportunity to make our argument to a federal judge rather than having our community raided by the DEA?[/pull_quote_center]

[RELATED: Santee Sioux Tribe to Launch First-in-the-Nation Pot Resort in South Dakota]

DEA officials asserted that marijuana was being grown on the premises by non-tribe members from Colorado. CBS 58 Milwaukee pointed out the fact that no arrests were made during the raid and “the investigation is ongoing.”

The Menominee Tribe had reportedly been involved in face-to-face negotiations with the DEA prior to the raid and had offered to destroy some hemp strands from the crop which had been identified as problematic under the Farm Bill’s regulations.

[RELATED: DEA Records Show Punishment is Rare Among Rampant Misconduct]

North American Industrial Hemp Council founder Erwin Sholts told Fox 11 News, “There is always a little bit of THC [in hemp] because the one flower may in the harvesting process spill some THC onto the stalk and so on, but 3/10 of 1 percent is a general level of THC in industrial hemp and you can’t make a drug out of it.

The Menominee Indian Tribe’s statement on the raid said:

[pull_quote_center]In May 2015, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin legalized the growing of low THC non-psychotropic industrial hemp by Tribal licensees on its lands. Notice of this change in Tribal law was provided to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. This action was intended to comply with Congress’ actions in 2014 Farm Bill which recognizing [sic] a distinction between marijuana and industrial hemp that created an exception to the Controlled Substance Act to allow for growth, cultivation and the study of industrial hemp in certain circumstances. The Tribe’s industrial hemp crop was always intended to be a legal crop as allowed by the 2014 Farm Bill.[/pull_quote_center]

DEA Records Show Punishment is Rare Among Rampant Misconduct

Despite a plethora of offenses documented in a 5-year period including failing drug tests, losing and stealing firearms, committing DWI, distributing drugs, falsifying records, and sexual harassment perpetrated by Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) employees, punishment beyond a written warning or brief suspension for serious misconduct is a rare consequence.

According to a report from USA Today, “The DEA’s internal affairs log shows investigators review more than 200 cases each year and often clear the agents involved.”

DEA discipline logs obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act request show that between 2010 and 2015, most cases of employee misconduct resulted in letters of caution, letters of reprimand, or short-term suspensions. Letters of caution differ from letters of reprimand which remain on an employee’s record; caution letters are not official disciplinary actions and do not become part of an employee’s record.

Offenses identified in the the logs include but are not limited to failing random drug tests; losing firearms; stealing firearms; DWI arrests; falsifying records; stealing evidence; improper use of government credit cards; creation of false documents; “improper association with a criminal element”; numerous cases of alcohol-related incidents violating agency policy; misusing government property; sexual harassment; and cases of failure to follow instructions. The log identifying offenses from 2010-2015 can be seen here.

[RELATED: DOJ Report Exposes DEA Agents’ Sex Parties with Prostitutes Funded by Colombian Drug Cartels]

Out of 50 DEA employees who were recommended to be terminated by the agency’s Board of Professional Conduct, 13 were actually fired. Some of those 13 ended up being reinstated due to federal appeals.

One employee who was recommended to be fired for distributing drugs received a 2-week suspension instead.

“If we conducted an investigation, and an employee actually got terminated, I was surprised,” said Carl Pike, a former internal affairs investigator for the DEA. “I was truly, truly surprised. Like, wow, the system actually got this guy.”

The release of these DEA discipline logs are on the heels of the Department Of Justice’s recent scrutiny of the agency following a DOJ inspector general report, released in March, that described how DEA agents attended sex parties funded by Colombian drug cartels.

“DEA agents stationed in places like Colombia let local police watch their weapons and other personal items as they engaged in hedonistic sex parties in their taxpayer-funded living quarters with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels. Ten agents confessed to attending the parties, some of whom were disciplined with suspensions lasting between two to ten days,” wrote Truth In Media’s Barry Donegan.

About a month after news of the sex party scandal broke, DEA administrator Michele Leonhart announced her resignation. A week before resigning, Leonhart was pressed by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to explain why she hadn’t fired the agents. She replied that federal law prohibits that action.

“If somebody murdered somebody, could you fire him?” asked Gowdy.

“If someone murdered someone, there would be criminal charges, and that’s how they would be fired,” Leonhart responded.

New DEA Head Says Pot “Is Dangerous,” Lacks Medical Use, Belongs on Schedule I

Newly-appointed acting Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg, who took over the position following previous DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart’s resignation over a scandal in which subordinate DEA agents were caught participating in sex parties with prostitutes funded by Colombian drug cartels, recently clarified that he supports marijuana’s controversial classification alongside hardcore drugs like heroin as a Schedule I narcotic with no medical use.

In an interview with Rosenberg, Fox News’ James Rosen asked, “Two of the last three presidents of the United States have acknowledged having used marijuana… Isn’t that itself – the fact that here we have two men who used marijuana, in varying degrees, and who then went on to become president of the United States – a kind of a prima facie argument that it is time to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act?

Rosenberg replied, “Yeah, I don’t think so.” He added, “Marijuana is dangerous. It certainly is not as dangerous as other Schedule I controlled substances; it’s not as dangerous as heroin, clearly, but it’s still dangerous. It’s not good for you. I wouldn’t want my children smoking it. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone do it. So I don’t frankly see a reason to remove it. We, by the way, support, and have supported, a lot of legitimate research on marijuana, fully behind that; I think it’s great. If we come up with a medical use for it, that would be wonderful. But we haven’t.

Rosen pushed back, “I’ve never seen two guys get thrown out of a bar because they started fist-fighting after smoking a joint. All right? But we’ve seen [that] every Friday and every Saturday night brings just such occasions as a result of the legal distribution of alcohol. Isn’t there some common-sense disparity, or irony, or disconnect in that?

Probably, yeah. Right?” said Rosenberg. “So I don’t know that you’re arguing that they’re both good; you may be arguing that they’re both bad. As I said earlier, marijuana is less dangerous – clearly less dangerous – than heroin. It’s easy to draw that line. But I’m not willing to say that it’s good for you, or that it ought to be legalized. I think it’s bad for you and that it ought to remain illegal.

When Rosen suggested that Rosenberg’s argument could be used to justify banning alcohol, Rosenberg replied, “No, I’m not going to say that. We – we tangled with that as a society in the 1930s. And we know how that went. That’s the law of the land; I get it. I choose not to drink alcohol but I’m not going to impose that on anyone else.

The new DEA chief said that he has never tried marijuana and that his biggest vice is drinking excessive quantities of diet soda.

Rosenberg pinpointed fighting a rising heroin epidemic as his top priority and admitted that legal pharmaceutical drugs are acting as a gateway drug to heroin abuse.

There’s an enormous supply of heroin; it’s cheap. In fact, it’s a lot cheaper than prescription pills. If you take oxycodone and hydrocodone for a football injury and you get hooked, you’re going to pay a dollar a milligram on the street for a pill – thirty milligrams, thirty dollars, give or take. Heroin is probably one-fifth the price, and because it has a similar chemical effect, a similar pharmacological reaction, folks make that transition,” he said.

[RELATED: Shona Banda’s Attorney Plans to Fight Cannabis’ Classification As Schedule I Narcotic]

He also pointed out the fact that the black market’s ability to reap profits off of the demand for contraband — which many anti-prohibition advocates argue is a predictable consequence of drug prohibition itself — funds terrorist groups and threatens U.S. national security.

This is a multi-billion dollar industry. What are the bad guys doing with the money that Americans are paying for drugs? What’s it funding overseas? I’m sure some of it’s going to terrorist organizations; we’ve seen that. And so that worries me quite a bit,” said Rosenberg.

Back in September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode noting that the federal government holds a patent on medical cannabis despite the fact that it classifies the substance as having no medical use. Watch the episode in the below-embedded video player.


BREAKING: DEA Chief Preparing to Resign Over Colombian Drug Cartel Sex Party Scandal

BenSwann.com recently reported on a Department of Justice report that exposed the fact that Drug Enforcement Administration agents working in Colombia were caught engaging in sex parties in their taxpayer-funded living quarters with prostitutes funded by local cartels. Now, CNN is reporting that DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, first appointed to her post in an acting capacity by former President George W. Bush and then confirmed under President Barack Obama, is planning to step down following what CNN‘s Evan Perez characterized as a “poor performance” at a congressional hearing concerning the sex party scandal. Leonhart made news back in 1997 when she became the first woman in DEA history to be appointed to the position of Special Agent in Charge.

At issue are the facts that Leonhart failed to produce a plan for weeding out the corruption at the core of the sex party scandal and dished out light punishments to the agents involved. CBS News notes that she expressed frustrations during her congressional testimony that it is too difficult to fire DEA agents under agency policy. Highlights from Michele Leonhart’s testimony before the House Oversight Committee during the hearing about the sex party scandal can be seen in the above-embedded video provided by CNN.

Leonhart also recently annoyed the Obama administration by contradicting the President’s policy of deferring to state-level marijuana laws and relaxing enforcement of marijuana prohibition in states where it has been legalized.

On Friday, Leonhart sent an email to DEA employees, which said, “This has been a very difficult week for DEA, with members of Congress and the media asking tough questions and sharing our outrage about the disgraceful conduct of a few individuals several years ago. This employee misconduct has upset me for many reasons, but especially because it calls into question the incredible reputation DEA has built over more than 40 years.”

According to CNN, Leonhart met with officials at the Department of Justice on April 20 to develop a plan for resigning her post and handing her responsibilities over to an eventual successor. The DOJ reportedly hopes to publicize Leonhart’s resignation before Loretta Lynch takes office as US attorney general, if Lynch prevails in her upcoming Senate confirmation vote.

Report: DEA Collected Americans’ Phone Records Years Before NSA’s Collection Began

A report released on Tuesday revealed that several years before the National Security Agency began recording Americans’ phone calls, the Drug Enforcement Administration had its own program that began recording calls in 1992.

The report, which was first released by USA Today, found that the DEA’s operation began in 1992, acted as a blueprint for the NSA’s massive data collection program, and was the government’s “first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime.”

As previously reported, the existence of the DEA’s program was first revealed in January. However, the full scope of the program was not exposed at the time. USA Today noted that while its report gives insight into the program, there are parts of it that still remain classified.

Officials involved with the operation told USA Today that for more than two decades, the Justice Department and the DEA “amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking,” with target countries including Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.

In a letter from the Justice Department to Sprint in 1998, obtained by USA Today, the department asked the phone company to turn over its call records, and called the DEA’s data collection “one of the most important and effective Federal drug law enforcement initiatives,” which had been “approved at the highest levels of Federal law enforcement authority,” according to Mary Lee Warren, the head of the department’s Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section.

According to the report, DEA agents did not intercept the content of the phone calls, but they did obtain which numbers were called and when, and they then linked those numbers to an electronic collection of investigative reports, domestic call records and foreign intelligence data.

USA Today reported that although the NSA’s program is still in place, Attorney General Eric Holder halted the DEA’s program in Sept. 2013, after Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was collecting call records and data from innocent Americans. The report claims that the DEA now sends subpoenas to phone companies, in order to obtain international calling records, and that they sometimes request “a thousand or more numbers a day.”

Two Silk Road Investigators Face Massive Fraud Charges

Prosecutors announced on Monday that two former federal agents have been arrested on charges of wire fraud and money laundering stemming from their investigation of the Silk Road online marketplace.

Two former federal agents have been accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars during their investigation of Silk Road, an online marketplace that authorities called “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet.” The two defendants are Carl Force, a former special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Shaun Bridges, a former Secret Service special agent.

Force and Bridges were assigned to a task force based in Baltimore investigating Silk Road. Force was the lead investigator working undercover, and Bridges was a computer forensics expert working on the case.

According to a press release from the Justice Department, Force “served as an undercover agent and was tasked with establishing communications with a target of the investigation, Ross Ulbricht, aka ‘Dread Pirate Roberts.'” Force was authorized to communicate with Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) online to gather information, but he allegedly went on to create several unauthorized, fictitious online identities.

Force allegedly “used fake online personas, and engaged in complex Bitcoin transactions to steal from the government and the targets of the investigation. Specifically, Force allegedly solicited and received digital currency as part of the investigation, but failed to report his receipt of the funds, and instead transferred the currency to his personal account. In one such transaction, Force allegedly sold information about the government’s investigation to the target of the investigation,” stated the press release. According to Forbes, Force deposited money amounting to three times his government salary into his bank account between 2012 and 2013. The Baltimore Sun reports that it was found by IRS investigators that Force made about $775,000 in that 2-year period, and used the money to pay off a loan and his mortgage, and to make various investments.

Bridges allegedly stole more than $800,000 in digital currency from the Silk Road that fell under under his control during the Baltimore Silk Road investigation. “The complaint alleges that Bridges placed the assets into an account at Mt. Gox, the now-defunct digital currency exchange in Japan. He then allegedly wired funds into one of his personal investment accounts in the United States mere days before he sought a $2.1 million seizure warrant for Mt. Gox’s accounts,” stated the press release.

Force faces charges of wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering and conflict of interest. Bridges faces charges of wire fraud and money laundering.

Force and Bridges were investigated about nine months before the trial for Ross Ulbricht began. Force reportedly became aware of the investigation in May 2014 and resigned.

Ulbricht’s defense team did not know of the investigation into the two former agents until five weeks before Ulbricht’s trial, and the information regarding the alleged actions of Force and Bridges was sealed by prosecutors. “The Government’s efforts to keep the Carl Force scandal out of the public eye at trial is in itself scandalous,” said Joshua Horowitz,a defense attorney for Ulbricht. “The recently filed Complaint which names Carl Force as a defendant demonstrates that the Government’s investigation of Mr. Ulbricht lacked integrity, and was wholly and fatally compromised from the inside.”

Ulbricht was found guilty in February of all charges relating to the operation of Silk Road. While he faces sentencing on May 15th, he filed a motion for a new trial on March 8th, and his lawyer reportedly believes the scandal surrounding Force and Bridges could help in his motion.

“There was considerable litigation, including a portion of our post-trial motions, that was related to this but has remained sealed,” Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s attorney, told Motherboard. “This is an important component of our motion, and will be amplified in our reply now that the charges have been instituted formally.”

The criminal complaint filed against Force and Bridges can be read here.

DOJ Report Exposes DEA Agents’ Sex Parties with Prostitutes Funded by Colombian Drug Cartels

The Drug Enforcement Administration is the Department of Justice’s law enforcement arm charged with enforcing US drug prohibition laws, ostensibly under the guise of protecting Americans from their own libertine, lascivious tendencies. However, a new DOJ inspector general report released on Thursday exposed the fact that DEA agents stationed in places like Colombia let local police watch their weapons and other personal items as they engaged in hedonistic sex parties in their taxpayer-funded living quarters with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels. Ten agents confessed to attending the parties, some of whom were disciplined with suspensions lasting between two to ten days.

The report by DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz notes that Colombian police officers said that DEA agents accepted bribes from drug cartels. Said the report, “The foreign officers further alleged that in addition to soliciting prostitutes, three DEA SSAs [special agents] in particular were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members.”

Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz discussed the national security implications in comments to Politico and said, “You can’t ignore this. This is terribly embarrassing and fundamentally not right… We need to understand what’s happening with the culture … anytime you bring a foreign national into your room, you’re asking for trouble.” He called for the DEA to fire the agents involved.

The Washington Post notes that, though the report did not specify the country in which the parties took place, a law enforcement official said that they happened in Colombia. The parties reportedly occurred on an ongoing basis between 2005 and 2008. “Although some of the DEA agents participating in these parties denied it, the information in the case file suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds,” the report stated.

The above-embedded video by Fox News notes that the report said, “The fact that most of the ‘sex parties’ occurred in government-leased quarters where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices, and other government-issued equipment were present created potential security risks for the DEA and for the agents who participated in the parties, potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion.”

The DOJ pointed out the fact that the DEA was uncooperative with the inspector general’s investigation. Said the report, “We were also concerned by an apparent decision by DEA to withhold information regarding a particular open misconduct case… Therefore, we cannot be completely confident that the FBI and DEA provided us with all information relevant to this review. As a result, our report reflects the findings and conclusions we reached based on the information made available to us.”

The report was a part of a wider probe into sexual misconduct and harassment allegations that have been leveled against the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, and the US Marshals Service and included additional reports of inappropriate sexual relationships and conduct by officials at the ATF and US Marshals Service. Investigators also found that DEA, ATF, and FBI officials sometimes chose not to investigate or report allegations of misconduct.

Interestingly, a DEA official told Inspector General Horowitz that DEA agents are sometimes allowed to solicit prostitutes while stationed overseas. The report noted that, according to DEA policy, “prostitution is considered part of the local culture and is tolerated in certain areas called ‘tolerance zones.’”

DEA and ATF officials denied Politico‘s requests for a comment on the matter.

Legal Medical Cannabis Growers on Trial: “Obama Admin is a Lie”

Spokane, WA-  Despite a significant rider within the 2014 “cromnibus” federal spending bill that prevents the Department Of Justice from undermining state laws regarding medical marijuana, five people from Washington known as the “Kettle Falls Five” face trial next Monday for growing marijuana plants in accordance with state law.

The Kettle Falls Five are Larry Harvey; Larry’s wife Rhonda Firestack-Harvey; Rhonda’s son Rolland Gregg and Rolland’s wife Michelle Gregg; and close family friend Jason Zucker. The five are all medical marijuana patients in the state of Washington, and were growing marijuana plants on the Harvey’s rural Stevens County property. As of August 2012 they had 68 plants before the property was visited by law enforcement agents presenting a state warrant and informing Rhonda Firestack-Harvey that their growing collective contained more plants than allowed by the state’s Medical Use of Cannabis Act.

While state law allows an individual to grow up to 15 plants, agents claimed the law allows just 45 plants in total for a growing collective, so the agents seized 23 of the plants on the Harvey property to “put them in compliance” with state law. The agents also took the Harvey’s hunting rifles, $700 in cash and an all-terrain vehicle. Days later, federal agents came to the property to seize the remaining plants.

Ben Swann spoke with Rolland Gregg, and Gregg noted the state law’s ambiguity regarding collective growing. Gregg also described the initial visit from the state and the subsequent federal raid, and the legal burdens that have ensued since the raid:

Gregg explained the group’s commitment to adhering to state law, and said that they had been purchasing medical marijuana from dispensaries before deciding that growing marijuana was a more practical and cost-effective way of securing relief for their ailments:

The five were later charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana; manufacture and distribution of marijuana; maintaining a drug-involved premises; and possession of firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Federal authorities claim that the Kettle Falls Five violated Washington state law, although the five are facing federal charges rather than state charges.

Gregg told Swann that they grew plants on the Harvey’s property to “pool resources”, much like the way a dispensary operates. Gregg said that there is no real state-level registration as a collective and the marijuana they grew was used only by the five of them:

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice declined a motion dismiss the charges against the Kettle Falls Five. Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks claimed that the five had too many plants for their own use and were operating an illegal for-profit business. Gregg said that they have been urged to take various plea deals, but have rejected the offers because they have maintained that their growing operation was legal. The trial for the Kettle Falls Five begins on February 23rd. They face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.

UPDATE, February 20th, 11:36 a.m. EST: According to court documents, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice dropped the charges against Larry Harvey due to Harvey’s deteriorating health. Harvey, 71, has stage 4 pancreatic cancer that has begun to spread to his liver.

New E-mail Revealed DEA, ATF Plan To Monitor Gun Show Attendees

According to a newly disclosed e-mail, the DEA and ATF collaborated on plans to monitor gun show attendees with automatic license plate readers.

The e-mail was released by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act.

The email, which is from April 2006 states the “DEA Phoenix Division Office is working closely with ATF on attacking the guns going to [redacted] and the gun shows, to include programs/operation with LPRs at the gun shows.”

According to the ACLU, “The government redacted the rest of the email, but when we received this document we concluded that these agencies used license plate readers to collect information about law-abiding citizens attending gun shows. An automatic license plate reader cannot distinguish between people transporting illegal guns and those transporting legal guns, or no guns at all; it only documents the presence of any car driving to the event. Mere attendance at a gun show, it appeared, would have been enough to have one’s presence noted in a DEA database.”

The ACLU asked the DEA about this project, and they claim it was never implemented. “We were certainly glad to hear them say this, as we had rationally, based on the scrap of information left unredacted in the document, concluded that gun show monitoring was underway,” explained the ACLU in a blog post.

This isn’t the first time the government’s license plate collection plans were revealed by the ACLU.

According to heavily redacted documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, the DEA has gathered as many as 343 million records in the National License Plate Recognition program, reported Derrick Broze for BenSwann.com.


DEA Kept Secret Database of Americans’ Phone Calls

Collected Calls to Countries ‘Linked to Drug Trafficking’

by Jason Ditz, January 16, 2015

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was revealed to have conducted secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls overseas, in an operation that was totally separate from the already publicized NSA program.
The Justice Department revealed the secret database in a criminal case this week, saying the DEA had been collecting information about Americans who were making calls to “certain countries” that they’d linked to drug trafficking.

The scope of the program remains uncertain, as only its base existence was revealed in the case, and the fact that Iran was one of the countries targeted in the program.

The program was active for years, though the Justice Department claims they ended the program in September of 2013. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D – VT) is pressing for additional information on the scheme.

DEA Claims Drug Cartels are Now Smuggling Marijuana from The U.S. into Mexico

On Monday, a report was released from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which claimed that following the legalization of marijuana in certain states, it is now being smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico, instead of the other way around.

U.S. News reported that according to the DEA, the alleged smuggling is being conducted by Mexican cartels, and it “involves top-notch marijuana grown by American entrepreneurs.”

According to NPR, while at one time “virtually all the weed smoked in the States” came from south of the border, times have changed, due to the fact that marijuana plants from the U.S. are much more potent than the plants grown in Mexico.

RT reported that “instead of making $60-$90 per kilogram,” marijuana growers in Mexico are now making “between $30 and $40 per kilogram,” which could eventually make the growers “abandon the drug altogether.”

The Communication Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, Mason Tvert, is uncertain about the accuracy of the DEA’s claim.

It’s certainly interesting if it is actually the case, but we should probably wait until there is confirmation that it’s even happening before we jump to conclusions,” said Tvert. “Unfortunately, the DEA doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to providing objective information about marijuana.”

Lawrence Payne, a spokesman for the DEA, told U.S. News that the majority of the trafficked marijuana is “being grown and obtained in states that have relaxed their marijuana laws, such as Colorado.

Payne said that although they believed the trafficked marijuana is “much higher quality and more expensive for the purpose of smuggling back into Mexico for sale and distribution,” they have not been able to gauge the level of the trafficking.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any specific information or numbers to quantify other than to say we know that it’s happening,” said Payne. “It’s too early to really know the level or scale of the trafficking southward.

The NSA Created Its Own Secret Google

A new batch of classified documents obtained by The Intercept shows that the National Security Agency is using a search engine similar to Google, called “ICREACH” to deliver data to U.S. government agencies.

ICREACH was created to function as the “largest system for internally sharing secret surveillance records in the United States, capable of handling two to five billion new records every day.”

A top-secret document provided by The Intercept from 2007 stated that the ICREACH team “delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

The Intercept reported that the classified documents regarding ICREACH provide the first “definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies.

These documents were among the ones leaked by NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden, and they reinforced the fact that the NSA was collecting phone calls, e-mails, cellphone locations, and Internet chats from hundreds of millions of innocent Americans.

While a document from 2010 shows that ICREACH “has been accessible to more than 1,000 analysts at 23 U.S. government agencies that perform intelligence work,” a document from 2007 cites the Central Intelligence Agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as key participants.

This team began over two years ago with a basic concept compelled by the IC’s increasing need for communications metadata and NSA’s ability to collect, process and store vast amounts of communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets,” the document revealed.

This is not something that I think the government should be doing,” said Brian Owsley, an assistant professor of law at Indiana Tech Law School, who said he was shocked that agencies like the FBI and DEA were involved.

Perhaps if information is useful in a specific case, they can get judicial authority to provide it to another agency. But there shouldn’t be this buddy-buddy system back-and-forth,” Owsley said.

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Jeffrey Anchukaitis, maintained that the mass sharing of information has become “a pillar of the post-9/11 intelligence community.”

Anchukaitis also insisted that by using ICREACH, “analysts can develop vital intelligence leads without requiring access to raw intelligence collected by other IC [Intelligence Community] agencies.”

A co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, Elizabeth Goitein, said that she found the mass scale of the ICREACH system “extremely troublesome.”

The myth that metadata is just a bunch of numbers and is not as revealing as actual communications content was exploded long ago,” said Goitein. “This is a trove of incredibly sensitive information.”

FedEx Indicted on 15 Criminal Counts for Drug Trafficking

Despite the fact that the Controlled Substances Act contains an exemption that protects common contract carriers like FedEx from being prosecuted for someone else’s attempt to sneak drugs through the mail, the Department of Justice has indicted the popular shipping company on 15 criminal counts for servicing orders for illegal online pharmacies. However, online pharmacies are a legal type of government-regulated business, and FedEx has repeatedly asked authorities to provide a list of pharmacies that engage in illegal practices like filling orders without prescriptions.

FedEx, through its lawyers, argued that it has a policy to not open packages and does not have the resources to perform law enforcement duties on behalf of the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to Yahoo! News, FedEx’s Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement, “We want to be clear what’s at stake here: the government is suggesting that FedEx assume criminal responsibility for the legality of the contents of the millions of packages that we pick up and deliver every day. We are a transportation company – we are not law enforcement. We have no interest in violating the privacy of our customers. We continue to stand ready and willing to support and assist law enforcement. We cannot, however, do the job of law enforcement ourselves.” US District Judge Charles Breyer indicated that the case will hinge on a determination as to what the company’s duties are in terms of verifying the potential criminality of online pharmacies that use shipping services.

The Department of Justice, which has been investigating the company for nine years, claims that FedEx knew it was servicing illegal online pharmacies. Yahoo! News pulled the following quote from the DOJ’s indictment, “FedEx’s couriers in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia expressed safety concerns that were circulated to FedEx Senior management, including that FedEx trucks were stopped on the road by online pharmacy customers demanding packages of pills, that the delivery address was a parking lot, school, or vacant home where several car loads of people were waiting for the FedEx driver to arrive with their drugs, that customers were jumping on the FedEx trucks and demanding online pharmacy packages, and that FedEx drivers were threatened if they insisted on delivering packages to the addresses instead of giving the packages to customers who demanded them.” In response to these issues, FedEx crafted a policy requiring packages from certain shippers to be held for pick up rather than delivered to an address. The DOJ believes this to be an admission that the company knew it was dealing with illegal online pharmacies. However, legal pharmacies sell addictive drugs, so the fact that recipients were demonstrating symptoms of drug addiction does not necessarily conclusively indicate that the seller is an illegal provider.

The DOJ is also alleging that FedEx carried shipments for pharmacies that had connections, such as matching shipping addresses, to known illegal providers. However, this presumes that FedEx has a responsibility and the capability to tie together these types of connections, considering the enormous volume of shipments it deals in each day.

FedEx was indicted on July 17 by a federal grand jury, and plead not guilty to the 15 criminal counts at a July 29 hearing. The case is due back in court on August 28. If convicted, FedEx could face up to $1.6 billion in fines. According to Bloomberg, FedEx attorney Chris Arguedas said, “The company has cooperated with the Department of Justice throughout its multiyear investigation. FedEx will continue to defend its conduct and its people.”

The Wall Street Journal pointed out the fact that UPS previously settled this same issue with the DOJ, which offered the carrier a non-prosecution agreement in exchange for paying $40 million in fines and assisting the government in catching illegal online pharmacies. It is possible that the prosecution of FedEx is an effort to get the company to assist the DEA in enforcing drug laws.

Justice Department Report Blames 4 DEA Agents for Deadly Detention Error

In April of 2012, University of California, San Diego student Daniel Chong was mistakenly picked up during a drug raid. He was detained and taken to a Drug Enforcement Administration facility, where, according to Chong’s testimony, agents told him his detention was a mistake and that he would be released and given a ride home shortly. Then, an agent handcuffed Chong and placed him in a holding cell, telling him, “Hang tight, I’ll come get you in a minute.”

Chong told Inside Edition, “The doors closed and never opened again… until four and a half days later.” For nearly five days, Chong was forgotten by agents in the cell and therefore received no food, water, or restroom breaks. Though four agents did notice his presence in the cell, each of them believed that someone else was going to return for him shortly and took no action.

Subsequently, Chong experienced serious medical and mental health issues that nearly cost him his life. He was left with no choice but to drink his own urine to survive, and, at one point, after being led to believe that no one was going to notice him before he passed away, attempted to carve a good bye note to his mother in his own arm with a shard of broken glass from his damaged eye wear. When he was discovered later by DEA agents that had not been assigned to his case, he was found screaming and covered in his own feces.

Chong was then rushed to the hospital where he was treated for the next five days for a perforated esophagus, dehydration, kidney failure, and cramps. While in custody, he lost fifteen pounds, and he currently suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

CNN reported that a settlement was reached in the case, and the DEA has been ordered to pay $4.1 million in damages to Chong, putting US taxpayers on the hook for what Chong’s lawyer Julia Yoo called “a mistake of unbelievable and unimaginable proportions.” Reason published the Justice Department’s newly-released July 2014 report on the incident, which places the blame primarily on the DEA supervisor who failed to provide a system for monitoring the condition of detainees. The report also blames three other agents, two task force officers and a DEA employee, who were responsible for keeping up with Chong. Also, the fact that the supervisor attempted to investigate the incident without reporting to management suggests that there may have been an effort to cover up the mistake. Though the Justice Department report recommends policy adjustments in an effort to prevent further incidents, it does not note whether or not any disciplinary actions will be taken against the DEA officials who left Chong without food, water, or access to a restroom for almost five days.

Said Chong’s lawyer Julia Yoo, “As a result of his case, it’s one of the primary reasons the DEA placed a nationwide policy that calls on each agent at satellite offices to check on the well-being of prisoners in their cells on a daily basis.”

DEA Threatens Massachusetts Doctors Involved with Medical Marijuana

Recently, the attention of Congress was drawn to the issue of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s involvement in the Massachusetts medical field. While Federal law forbids any use of marijuana, Massachusetts is one of 22 states that allow the drug for medical use.

According to US Representative, and California Republican, Dana Rohrabacher, the DEA’s attempt to remove Massachusetts doctors from the medical marijuana business was generating an “atmosphere of fear among physicians.”

In fact, the DEA issued an ultimatum to Massachusetts doctors, regarding medical marijuana. This ultimatum stated that the doctors must break all connections with marijuana companies, or else they would lose their federal licenses to prescribe other medication.

Dr. Samuel Mazza, the chief executive of Debilitating Medical Conditions Treatment Centers, received a visit from a DEA investigator, shortly after state regulators announced the first 20 applicants approved for provisional licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Mazza told the Boston Globe that he was confronted by DEA investigator, Gregory Kelly, who said, “Here are your options, you either give up your license or give up your position on the board…or you challenge it in court.”

A measure was approved by the US House last month, which would prohibit the DEA from using its funding to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. Rep. Rohrabacher, who sponsored the amendment, said, “What they are doing, obviously, is not only suppressing doctors, but wasting resourcesIf they want to fight crime, let’s use those resources to hire police to come and do more patrols in neighborhoods where there is high crime.”

Another US Representative, and a cosponsor of Rohrabacher’s amendment, is Tennessee Democrat, Steve Cohen. Cohen called the DEA’s actions “heavy-handed” and said that encouraging doctors to be involved with medical marijuana dispensaries like they should be, the agency was “trying to run people off.”

The number of Massachusetts physicians given an ultimatum by the DEA is increasing daily. According to the Boston Globe, “The DEA is targeting doctors who are listed as part of the management or board of directors of proposed marijuana dispensaries. These doctors, under state rules, would not be allowed to recommend marijuana for their patients.

Out of the nine Congressmen in Massachusetts who voted, only two voted against the Rohrabacher measure to stop federal interference with state medical marijuana laws.

One Representative in support, Michael Capuano, said he voted for the amendment, because he does not expect the DEA to stop its current actions “without a clear directive from Congress.”

DEA continues obstructing marijuana research, report says

A new report released by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, says the DEA has spent the last four decades thwarting marijuana research which carries the potential of reclassification for the drug.

“The DEA has argued for decades that there is insufficient evidence to support rescheduling marijuana,” reads the executive summary of the report.  “At the same time, it has… acted in a manner intended to systematically impede scientific research.”

Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning the federal government does not recognize any acceptable uses for the drug, including medicinal uses.  The status of Schedule I also means the drugs in this category cannot receive federal funding for research, medicinal or otherwise.  Marijuana is joined on the Schedule I tier by peyote, LSD, and heroine.

“This concerns me greatly as someone who has studied marijuana and given thousands of doses of the drug,” says Professor Carl Hart of the department of psychology and psychiatry from Columbia University.

Professor Hart continues saying, “The notion that the DEA has not thought about reconsidering scheduling of marijuana seems to be against scientific evidence and what we’re trying to do as a society that relies on imperial evidence to make decisions.”

The report also states the DEA has been forced by several court orders to release a decision on the reclassification of marijuana.  Two of these times, multiple lawsuits were brought forth against the DEA to act instead of simply sitting on their hands for years.

This report is released a few weeks after the House of Representatives approved of three amendments focused on restricting the DEA’s grasp on marijuana and hemp laws.  Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California was one sponsor of the amendments.

“Nobody should be afraid of the truth,” says Rohrabacher.  “Is the downside of marijuana a harmful side effect? Or is there a positive side that actually does help? That needs to be proven.”

A few studies have already shown marijuana has many potential medical uses, including slowing or stopping the spread and growth of cancerous cells, including leukemia.

Dr. Wai Liu from St. George’s University of London told the Huffington Post, “Cannabinoids have a complex action; it hits a number of important processes that cancers need to survive.”

The growing support for the legalization of marijuana has seen 22 states and the District of Columbia legalize medicinal use of marijuana, and Colorado and Washington have legalized the recreational use of the drug.