DEA agent inspecting hydroponic plants

DEA TARGETS HYDROPONIC GROWERS

    You are a grower of hydroponic tomatoes, or you may be anyone else for that matter, whom the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) determines has purchased such legal and ordinary items as, for instance, a circulation fan or some fertilizer--not even ammonium nitrate--just the standard gardener's N-P-K, or perhaps merely some fluorescent or halogen lamps called "grow lights". It seems that the purchase of any of these items, and some other seemingly innocuous and ordinary articles, can put your name into the computers of the DEA as a suspect in illegal drug dealing--and--according to a report in a Scottsdale/Mesa, Arizona newspaper, The Tribune, the agents involved in these investigations all admit that they put "legitimate hydroponics customers' names in the DEA's hands." There was also no assurance made that those names are ever removed from the DEA's database.

    Doug Bennett, the newspaper's reporter who initially covered the story, told The WINDS that the agents admitted to him "that some innocent people get caught up in it and that they [the DEA] didn't have a problem with it. That's basically the way they approach things and they don't make any apologies for it." Bennett likened the tactics of the DEA to that of gathering the names of everyone who buys film and lollipops in an attempt to catch child molesters.

   The Arizona Republic a Phoenix-based newspaper, along withThe Tribune andThe San Francisco  Chronicle reported that agents from the federal agency have subpoenaed the records of, among others, a Berkeley, California publisher and a "Tempe, gardening store for the names of all Arizonans who bought a book about growing marijuana in what civil rights attorneys say is an unconstitutional move." ( Arizona Tribune, Oct. 27, 1997).

    One hydroponics store owner described the nationwide issuance of DEA subpoenas served on gardening and hydroponics stores as a "fishing expedition". According to all outward indications, the federal agency has ostensibly been carrying on, for sometime, a concerted effort to clamp down on illicit growers of marijuana. One might ask why, when, according to The Tribune report, at the same time "agents insist hydroponics is an increasing threat, the Phoenix DEA has uncovered less than two dozen such growers in the last five years." Considering the illegal drug business in America is between fifty and sixty billion dollars a year, these are small fish indeed.

    The object of the subpoenas does not stop with merely those purchasing the marijuana cultivation book entitled,Marijuana Hydroponics: High-Tech Water Culture. Targeted are any business records detailing even the sale of other, more mainstream, artifacts such as the lights, fans and fertilizer mentioned. Records are subpoenaed regardless of the fact that the buyer may not even have purchased the book on marijuana cultivation--and even if the businesses have never sold the publication, which according to company owners interviewed by The WINDS, virtually none have ever handled, let alone sold.

    Attempted interviews by The WINDS of agents involved in the investigation were met with refusals to comment concerning the "ongoing investigation". This was also the response received by reporters for Arizona Public Radio as they claimed that the DEA "refused to say why it wants the identities of those who purchased" the products.

    When The WINDS contacted the DEA's chief agent for marijuana investigations in Arizona, Al Reilly, he refused comment referring our office to Larry Hedberg, DEA Public Information Officer. When asked if Agent Reilly had been ordered not to speak to the media after having made some rather inflammatory statements to the local newspapers, Hedberg issued the increasingly familiar decline, again on the basis of an "ongoing investigation", claiming "no one is speaking to the press".

The WINDS: "There are a lot of quotations from Agent Reilly in the local newspapers for no one to be 'speaking to the press'".

Agent Hedberg: "That was an interview that was done several days ago." --before the ongoing investigation that has been going on for almost six years?

    Translation: Yes, Agent Reilly had been told to keep his remarks to himself.

    What were those remarks reported by the aforementioned newspapers? When several of the businesses and their attorneys expressed deep concern about the violation of First Amendment rights, United States Drug Enforcement Agent, Al Reilly commented, "The scumbags always hide behind the First Amendment. People are more concerned about (civil rights) than they are about some scumbag growing marijuana."

And:

    "'If they're using hydroponics (illegally), it's between us, them and God,' he said. 'And, somehow, the DEA will get in the middle of it.'" (The Tribune, Nov. 2, 1997).

    Is not that what the government has desired all along - to impose itself between man and God? Is the Constitution's First Amendment a shelter only for "scumbags"? The only persons on record as bringing up the Constitutional issue of the First Amendment are the business owners. Is Agent Reilly referring to them as "scumbags"? Why would an individual growing a plant that has never been proven harmful be labeled "scumbag"--especially in a state that has legalized the medical use of the plant? Does Agent Reilly include tobacco growers in the category of "scumbags" whose product has killed millions? Does Agent Reilly smoke--tobacco that is? Are the producers of alcoholic beverages, the withdrawal from the addiction of which can kill and is more physically damaging than heroin--classified as "scumbags"? Does Agent Reilly imbibe such beverages, ever?

    According to local media reports andThe San Francisco Chronicle, this action by the DEA has resulted in a flock of civil rights and constitutional lawyers weighing in against the federal agency on what they claim is a violation of the First Amendment. There seems to be considerable validity to this argument. The first article of amendment to the United States Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press....

    The operative term apparently being addressed by civil rights activists is the word "abridging" which, according toBlack's Law Dictionary, sixth edition, is legally defined as: "to reduce or contract; to diminish or curtail." By this definition it would certainly seem that anyone who realizes that they may be automatically subject to government scrutiny for purchasing certain legal items is having those freedoms abridged. They would understandably feel less free to perform a perfectly legal act without experiencing a degree of apprehension over unwarranted government scrutiny. The word used in the Constitution does not mean eliminated or revoked. It merely means reduced by any degree, and fear is a common tactic used by corrupt governments to reduce the freedom of its citizens by making them afraid to exercise those freedoms.

    "Similar government requests for subscription lists of certain newspapers or newsletters have historically been declared unconstitutional, Glendale attorney Terrance Mead said. "(The First Amendment) is not only the right to speak your mind, but the right to listen," Mead added. (The Arizona Republic, Oct. 27, 1997).

    In their attempts to induce the cooperation of those businesses who are the object of their investigation, the DEA serves the owners with a very official looking document that carries with it NO legal force whatever. The WINDS has obtained a copy of one of those "subpenas".

[NOTE: There is a diversity within the government in the spelling of the word "subpoena", which is the legally defined spelling, and "subpena", the spelling used in both the DEA document and the United States Code.]

    Within the document is contained wording that gives it the appearance of possessing legal clout without actually having any. Following the bold, capitalized word "GREETING" is the form statement,

By the service of this subpena by Special Agent," [then a blank line for the agent's name, in this case Al Reilly] who is authorized to serve it, you are hereby commanded and required to appear before       Special Agent Al Reilly      , an officer of the Drug Enforcement Administration to give testimony and to bring and produce for examination the following books, records and papers at the place hereinafter set forth....

    Then follows the typewritten entry listing the objects "demanded" in the DEA's "subpena", immediately succeeded by another "demand" declaring,

You are required not to disclose the existence of this subpoena to your customers. Any such disclosure could impede the investigation and thereby interfere with the enforcement of the law.

--a not-so-veiled implication that the recipient of this instrument could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice should they refuse cooperation?

    At the bottom, just above the signature of the Special Agent issuing the paper there is the legal citation supposedly investing the agents with their powers of subpoena:

Issued under authority of Sec. 506 of the Comprehensive Drug
Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, Public Law No. 91-513
(21 U.S.C. 876)

    The blatant lies and attempt at intimidation are then further reinforced by an attached copy of the above cited Public Law in which it states that the Attorney General has the power of subpoena for any records, etc., that may be "material to the investigation." Attention is never given to the fact that only a magistrate or Federal Grand Jury can issue a legal subpoena.

    Emphasis on another fact is omitted from the "administrative subpena" (as the DEA refers to their non-legal paper), and that is that the Public Law cited in the document clearly states, "...a witness shall not be required to appear at any hearing more than 500 miles distant from the place where he was served with a subpena." Checking the AAA Road Atlas places the publisher in Berkeley over 750 miles from the "commanded" place of appearance in Phoenix. An oversight by the DEA or another attempt to extort cooperation from the "subpena" recipient by availing themselves of a provision included in the document? "For your convenience," the DEA paper claims, "you may, prior to the appearance date, turn the subpoenaed documents over to an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration."

    Who would not choose the latter in lieu of traveling 750 miles? After all, it is common knowledge that the San Francisco area contains at least its share of drug agents. As per the DEA's Public Information Officer, "It's not meant to intimidate or threaten anybody."

    Is it not a valid supposition that, since the DEA's bogus "subpena" carries with it no legal teeth to enforce it that the inclusion of a copy of the federal Public Law 91-513 was done solely for its intimidation value and to cause the individuals being served to make the logical--though erroneous--assumption that the law is directly addressing the DEA's right to issue and enforce their "subpenas"?

    Beverly Potter, owner of the Berkeley, California company, Ronin Publishing, described for The WINDS her encounter with the DEA's "funny subpena". "After we got over the initial terror, we realized that there was something funny about this subpena. It didn't tell us when--forever or what [within what time frame the purchases they wanted were to have been made] in the last fifteen years? What's the deadline for giving this to them," she questioned, "the year 2050? None of that was on the subpena....My first response was, 'Oh my God!' It was pretty terrifying.

    "And then," Potter added, "we realized that it wasn't even signed by a judge. I wrote back requesting a subpoena signed by a judge." That legal document, according to Potter, was never served.

    General Hydroponics located in Sebastopol, California, has received several of the intimidation "subpenas". Owner, Larry Brooke, who has closely watched and studied the situation between the DEA and the state, believes, from his sources, that the DEA's focus on Arizona is due to the state's passage of Proposition 200, which among other things, legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This new law, Brooke contends, was so repugnant to then Governor Fife Symington that, as a means of reprisal against the legislation, he gave the federal law enforcement agency carte blanche to do whatever they wanted in his state in the way of marijuana drug enforcement. Apparently, the governor believed that the definition of state's rights is an issue residing only within the mind of the state's chief executive--never mind its citizens.

    Stating vehemently that he does not use or condone the use of drugs, Brooke says, "I do love what this country was once built on and when my own government is busy defecting and suspending the Constitution, I have a problem with that."

    When asked how much administrative hassle all of the "subpenas" have caused him since he was issued the first one in 1991, he replied simply, "None. I never comply. They have never gotten a single piece of paper from me. I will not," Brooke forcibly adds, "be party to the unraveling of the Constitution."

    On the one instance when the DEA actually followed the law and obtained a subpoena issued by a federal judge, Brooke told them, "Now bring your agents in for their depositions. We need to know what they're looking for, who they're looking for, where they're looking for it and what expectation they have that our records will be helpful.

    "They were so troubled by the idea of having a deposition taken," Brooke remarked, "that they then went back to the judge and said forget it. We don't want the records anymore. That is as close as they've ever gotten to getting information out of me."

    Doug Bennett, theTribune reporter told this office that, "a lot of small businessmen aren't sophisticated enough to know the difference [between a legal subpoena and the DEA document]. They feel intimidated and cave-in and give up whatever the government's looking for."

green house and hydroponics

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing one Tempe company that has been served a legal subpoena. Russ Antkowiak, owner of Aqua Culture, a hydroponics store, asks why the DEA presented him with a subpoena (a legal one) when he has never sold the book in question. He claimed they were approaching the matter as if all hydroponics businesses were in league with marijuana growers. Antkowiak claims that the majority of his business is with the likes of NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Johnson Space Center and Cape Canaveral, and the scientific expeditions to the Antarctic.

    The Arizona office of the ACLU provided The WINDS with a copy of the legal subpoena issued by a Federal Grand Jury to Aqua Culture. Listed are the demands enumerated in the document following the command to appear before the Grand Jury:

YOU ARE ALSO COMMANDED to bring with you the following document(s) or object(s):

All records including but not limited to, customer name, address, telephone number, products purchased and date of purchase, payment receipts and shipping address for all customers who purchased any of the following items between January 1, 1996, and August 1, 1997:

    Then, follows three handwritten entries:

    Antkowiak makes the somewhat acerbic observation that "the DEA is really having a hard time justifying themselves for being alive. Because to say that they only busted five people in one year means that the 'War on Drugs' is not going very well."

    In the "War on Drugs" it would do the public well to remember that it was the fabrication used by the BATF that there was an illicit drug manufacturing lab at the Mt. Carmel compound of the Branch Davidians that supplied them with a "legitimate" reason to attack and burn to death its occupants. Merely because a dragon has been observed eating ants does not make a case for the fact that it is finished consuming "higher" life forms.

    In their information-gathering quests against the American public it appears that the methods used at first seem legitimate but, with a government that epitomizes the "give and inch, take a mile" philosophy, when will we see subpoenas for company records revealing every facet of a person's life? Knowing that information is power, the more that is gathered by the government on its citizens, the more power has that government over its citizens.

    Occasionally, there occurs a story that must be reported if for no other reason than its unknown portent. The reporter may not understand the hidden implications and must leave its interpretation to the reader. This appears to be one such case. There are, however, many valid points worthy of consideration and some rhetorical questions to be posed.

    The attorney with the ACLU interviewed by this office is convinced that the driving force behind the government's vendetta against marijuana was instituted in the thirties by Harry Anslinger, the first director of the first American anti-drug agency, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. As coincidence would dictate, Mr. Anslinger's appointment was due to his uncle and banker Andrew Melon, President Hoover's soon-to-be Secretary of the Treasury--and--chief financial backer for the Du Pont company. Du Pont apparently feared the competition of a natural fiber, hemp, (marijuana) that is widely reputed to be far superior to either cotton or wool, especially when Du Pont was in the early stages of producing the first synthetic fibers for clothing. This, the attorney said, is only one of a multitude of industries that would theoretically be affected by the highly versatile plant.

    Those who are regular readers of The WINDS know that there is, notwithstanding expressions to the contrary, largely no concern whatever by the governing machinery for the welfare of the common citizen. There is no nurturing motive on their behalf to serve people and protect them from the "ravages" of marijuana. With this as a given, one can only ask open-ended, perhaps rhetorical questions as to the real purpose behind the actions such as those taken by the DEA:

    Of a certainty we can know that marijuana or its control is not the driving priority behind what the DEA is doing. What an individual sees in this scenario is quite unrelated to the true purposes of this beast.

    When one witnesses an accomplished magician at work, the truth, except in the mind of a child, is not that what he is doing is real magic, but that he is doing it in such a masterful way as to make the process invisible. In this instance there is that same quality of illusion except that the vast majority of those beholding the "trick" do not know it to be a trick--and further, they do not want to know. They, unlike the child, are not believing their government with a "childlike" faith but with willful ignorance--that ignorance of the blind "who will not see"--those whose destiny is fixed because of that self-imposed blindness.

    When a government distrusts its citizens to the extent that it must engage in lies and intimidation to obtain its desired goals, many would advocate that it should be changed and reformed. The truth is, however, that it is too late for that. Any government whose relationship to its citizens is so adversarial that it utilizes such means to coerce their behavior, is, by historical precedent, imminently due to be swept away. This is not a declaration intended to incite rebellion. It is merely an objective observation.

"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate...." Isaiah 13:9.

...and He requires no help from mankind.

 

Written 11/10/97

 

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