|Missoula Public Library|
|Rep. Diane Sands (D-Missoula) stood up for medical marijuana patients — and was investigated by the DEA|
Montana legislator Diane Sands has come under investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, and she’s not sure why. But Sands said she suspects the investigation is because she advocates liberalizing the marijuana laws.
Sands told the Colorado Independent‘s Scot Kersgaard that she has no involvement in medical marijuana other than her work in the Montana Legislature. But the Missoula Democrat has been outspoken in advocating for reducing penalties for marijuana, and also advocating for the federal delisting of cannabis so that the issue can be decided by individual states.
“Because of the federal supremacy clause, federal law always trumps state law,” Sands said. “We fought a civil war over this. There is nothing a state can do to make marijuana legal, or even to make medical marijuana legal, but there is a process to change that at the federal level. Now that so many states have made medical marijuana legal, the federal government should remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controllled Substances Act, and let the states regulate marijuana as they see fit.”
“I don’t believe I should be investigated by the DEA for saying that,” said Sands, who represents House District 95 in Missoula and works as development director for the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. “Any suggestion that the federal government is investigating me is very chilling. I’m an historian, so yes, I connect present activities to past activities, such as the Sedition Act of 1918 and the McCarthy hearings.
|Sands has called for the feds to get out of marijuana regulation|
”When you have government officials investigating lawmakers because of how they pursue their official duties, you have a problem,” Sands said.
Sands said her name came up when a DEA agent asked a witness whether Sands was involved in a drug conspiracy case under investigation. That person’s attorney told Sands her name had come up.
The questions came from DEA agents from Billings who were investigating medical marijuana businesses, reports Michael Moore at the Missoulian.
“So now, if you’re a state legislator who has been working on medical marijuana laws, you are somehow part of a conspiracy,” Sands said.
DEA Special Agent Mike Turner, spokesperson for the DEA out of Denver, wouldn’t tell the Missoulian whether Sands is under investigation or why, and he didn’t return calls from the Colorado Independent.
Based on his comments to the Missoulian, though, it is clear that the DEA considers any person or business involved with medical marijuana to be fair game for investigation.
“It is outrageous and absurd that the DEA would investigate a state lawmaker for doing her job: crafting state laws,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
“When he ran for President, Barack Obama said he would not circumvent state medical marijuana laws,” O’Keefe said. “The President needs to keep his word and order the Justice Department to back off, and to focus on real crimes instead of targeting medical marijuana providers and interfering with states’ democratic processes.
“This could have a chilling effect on lawmakers who want to be involved in regulating medical marijuana in any state,” O’Keefe said.
“This is part of the continuing witch hunt in Montana,” said Jim Gingery, executive director of the Montana Medical Growers Association. “They have already successfully intimidated law-abiding business people, and now they are attempting to intimidate any politician who is opposed to full prohibition.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Gingery said. “They will try to discredit anyone involved in medical marijuana in Montana.”
One year ago, the DEA orchestrated a massive, state-wide raid on medical marijuana businesses in Montana, where voters approved legalizing marijuana with a 62 percent majority.