DEA: Any "Individual" or Group Growing or Distributing Pot for "Recreational Use" Can be Target of Investigation

The Drug Enforcement Agency wants to make it clear that it's not just going after kingpins.

Any "individual" or organization involved in growing or distributing pot for recreational use can be a target of an investigation, the DEA warns through a U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman.

As we mentioned on Tuesday, the DEA blew us off -- and therefore, you, dear readers -- when we sought information last week about the raid of a Tempe cannabis club. We had questions about the political ramifications of the raid, including why the DEA seems to be enforcing Arizona law in this case. The state Attorney General, Tom Horne, has asked the court system to rule on whether cannabis clubs are legal or not under the 2010 Medical Marijuana Act, but it appears the DEA -- a biased agency that uses taxpayer funds to advertise against pot legalization -- couldn't wait to bust one.

Yesterday, U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney finally got back to us -- with a strong message for Arizonans bent on supplying "recreational" users with weed.

Here's what Sweeney said:

"While I'm not going to comment on any particular pending matters, in general, consistent with the Department guidance, DEA continues to identify and investigate any criminal organization or individual who unlawfully grows, markets or distributes marijuana or other dangerous drugs for recreational use.

"As always, the Department is committed to enforcing the federal Controlled Substances Act in all states, and will focus its resources on significant drug traffickers, not individuals with serious illness or their immediate caregivers who are in compliance with applicable state medical marijuana statutes."

By that rationale, the DEA must believe that James Chaney, the owner of the Arizona Go Green Compassion Club arrested last Thursday, is a "significant drug trafficker." True, Chaney is accused of possessing 50 pounds of marijuana at his home and another 10 to 20 at the Tempe business, and that's a lot of dope. Perhaps even, arguably, a "significant" amount.

But Chaney, whatever his shortcomings, (the DEA also says Chaney had an active arrest warrant on a meth charge), there seems to be no argument that he was selling his marijuana to state-approved patients.

Theoretically, Arizona voters wanted those patients to have marijuana. So this is more complicated than the average pot-dealer bust.

Horne, not the federal government, is prosecuting Chaney -- meaning that the state's medical pot law must be considered.

Even if Chaney didn't follow the new state law precisely -- and that'll be determined in the court system, obviously -- the public should keep in mind that the DEA isn't just a public safety agency.

It's a lobbying group.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.