Cop Block reader D. Thompson reports that he was approached by an Agent Schmidt (badge #1014) of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office while he was in a doctor’s office. Agent Schmidt told Mr. Thompson that he was investigating some sort of red flag in the state’s prescription drug monitoring system, and that apparently he’d visited the physicians of record, and had already swindled (or blackmailed?) them into disclosing what Mr. Thompson would think should be HIPAA-protected health records. Mr. Thompson doubts any warrant was issued for obtaining any records.
Agent Schmidt then purportedly offered to take a cash payment in exchange for telling his office that there was nothing to investigate and to (supposedly) make the case go away. Mr. Thompson advised the agent that he had no interest in paying him cash in exchange for his “service.” Schmidt then told Thompson that he was “an asshole” and that Thompson would be prosecuted for obtaining prescription medications from two providers at the same physician’s office.
In a time where the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, mostly over drugs, this is disturbing to say the least. There have already been numerous crackdowns on medical marijuana patients and dispensaries. People continue to have their lives senselessly inconvenienced or destroyed over the war on drugs, and now the police are seeking to crack down even on legal drugs.
The intrusion, or even worse, mutual partnership, of law enforcement with healthcare is utterly atrocious. This is not only a moral abomination – the entanglement of government officials, bureaucracy, and violent enforcement, with that of private medical decisions and healthcare essentially amounts to fascism. The reality is that although HIPAA purports to protect patient “privacy,” and warrants are “required” for certain investigations, there are various systems currently in place that record and compile data regarding people’s prescription medications, so that when certain parameters are met, or “red flags” are triggered such as in this case, law enforcement can either crack down on physicians, or their patients. The DEA and various federal enforcement agencies pressure, or even force physicians to monitor, and essentially criminalize their own patients.
Drug addicts are jailed instead of rehabilitated. Women have had their children seized for eating poppy seed bagels and refusing certain surgical procedures. William Reddie was shot and killedover an incident wherein CPS tried to take his son away over a marijuana incident.
Anna and Alex Nikolayev of California recently had their infant seized by Child Protective Services, purportedly because they sought to obtain a second medical opinion on their son’s condition. The police showed up at their door and smacked Mr. Nikolayev to the ground. Mr. Nikolayev is originally from Russia, and noted that the ridiculous situation reminded him of a “communist regime.”
Such drastic and violent measures cannot even remotely be said to be in furtherance of anyone’s safety. Having no mother is not safer, or better for a child than having a mother who eats poppy seed bagels. Having no mother is not safer, or better, than having a mother who does not wish to preemptively consent to unnecessary medical procedures. Having a dead father is not safer, or better than having a father who smokes pot occasionally. Having no parents is not better than having parents who (god forbid) are frustrated with the level of care being provided, and wish to seek a second medical opinion.
Americans might be up in arms after hearing that the federal court has taken sides with the Justice Department on enabling police to use concealed surveillance cameras on private property, and they are able to do so without having to have a search warrant in the first place. U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled that this was a reasonable thing for Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents to enter rural property without prior permission nor a warrant, installing multiple “covert digital surveillance cameras” as they hope to discover and record evidence of 30 to 40 marijuana plants being cultivated.
So much for the law protecting Americans’ privacy rights, as Big Brother now has a carte blanche to monitor our activities – whether we know it or not, and obviously, those of us who prefer to prance around in our birthday suits in the privacy of our own homes might want to think twice, as you can never quite tell just when it becomes illegal to cultivate a row of miniature cactii on your window shelf. At least there is no ruling yet on warrantless cell phone tracking – yet.
This week, on October 16th, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. will begin hearing oral arguments in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s current status of cannabis alongside LSD and heroin as a Schedule I substance, which identifies cannabis has having “no medicinal value.”
The hypocrisy is egregious and obvious: on top of the countless scientific studies which have been done over the last several years showing cannabis as an effective medicine for everything from Alzheimer’s to MS to cancer, nearly three quarters of Americans recognize this truth and support the doctors and patients who feel the same. Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, which is found in the cannabis plant, is classified as Schedule III – meaning it is recognized to have medicinal value. In December, 2011, the federal government granted a patent on medical cannabisto a private firm called KannaLife In 2002, my state university college textbook in pharmacology cited “cannabis” as being the model anti-emetic drug – meaning cannabis controls nausea better than any other known compound on the planet.
For the first time in 20 years, federal courts will have to address this inconsistency, despite their blatant tactics to delay these discussions. And there’s a good chance they will be forced to put policy more in line with science. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance this change will do much meaningful for the thousands of cannabis patients and consumers in this country. If cannabis is rescheduled to Schedule II, it will come to sit alongside cocaine in its designation. Yes, doctors can prescribe cocaine. But we all know this doesn’t happen in real practice. Furthermore, rescheduling means the FDA is still in control, and they don’t let anyone but Big Pharma produce medicines.
I applaud Americans for Safe Access and the excellent work they are doing – pushing the envelope and demanding that we have the conversation and hold our policies to a scientific standard. But although I welcome our court system finally attempting to address the contradiction of our policies with science, I caution anyone from getting their hopes up or from thinking that the battle is over should marijuana be re-scheduled.
The fact is, cannabis needs to be removed from the scheduling system altogether. Period. Only then will the civil liberties aspect of this issue be resolved. Only then will opportunities open for entrepreneurship and local businesses in this emerging industry. Only then will the ugliness of the illegal market completely be addressed. And most importantly, only then will all the patients who need their medicine have access to it.
I sincerely hope that Americans for Safe Access is successful this week in their court hearings – the truth is with them. But the battle does not stop there; we need to de-schedule, not just re-schedule marijuana.