Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials are demanding the names of all Arizonans who bought a marijuana cultivation book in a move legal experts are calling clearly unconstitutional.
Ronin Publishing Inc. of Berkeley, California, and a gardening specialty store in Tempe, Arizona, both received subpoenas to reveal the identities of Arizona residents who have purchased Marijuana Hydroponics: High-Tech Water Culture. The Arizona store was also requested to turn over the names of customers who purchased grow lights, fans, and certain fertilizers.
Constitutional law attorney Ron Kuby of New York called the DEA's action "outrageous" during an interview with The Arizona Republic. "Whoever in the DEA [is responsible] deserves to lose their job and undergo some basic re-education on the fundamental values on which this country was built."
NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. agreed. "This clearly violates Constitutional protections of free speech, which includes the rights of citizens to read the literature of their choice," he said.
Arizona shop-owner Russ Antkowiak said that he does not keep files on which customers bought specific items. Beverly Potter, owner of Ronin Publishing, refused to comply with the subpoena and called the DEA's request "an infringement on the First Amendment."
"It's very frightening when the government can cook up their own subpoenas," she said. The agency issued the July subpoena under its own authority and did not need a judge's approval.
Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, said that the DEA undertook a similar operation in the early 1990's known as "Operation Green Merchant." In that instance, the DEA subpoenaed the names and addresses of customers who had purchased indoor gardening equipment. Law enforcement later conducted searches of customers' homes based solely upon this information.
"Thankfully, judges across the country rejected this kind of 'fishing expedition' as an overly broad use of police power," St. Pierre said. St. Pierre speculated that judges would rule similarly against the DEA's latest action if challenged.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on October 29 that at least one California gardening supply store was also subpoenaed by the DEA in May.
For more information, please call either Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.