The DEA is having an anti-cannabis conference on Halloween in San Diego
where they effectively shut down all medical cannabis dispensaries within
the county including delivery services. Two patients have died since the
closures – starvation and dehydration. The marijuana helped them eat, stay
on other medications, stay alive.
Today I attempted to register for the second day of the conference. It was
made clear when I and others called to inquire that the first day was for
agents only or those with federal grant ID numbers for prevention programs
and the second day was set aside for other coalitions and prevention
specialists. However, to attend I would have to register on day one for
day two and pay cash.
I arrived at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley at 7:45 a.m. this
morning and was instructed that registration entrance was in the building
behind the pool. I strolled down the walkway seizing the opportunity to
take mental photographs of agents eager for their morning dose of
The national guard manned the registration table – boots and full camo. I
approached the table and told them I was here to register for day two of
the conference. I was asked if I pre-registered. “I was told there was no
pre-registration and that I would have to register today for day two. What
do I need to do?”
I was handed a piece of paper to fill out. Told to fill it out at another
table. It asked for my name, job title, affiliation, address, e-mail,
phone and fax. I provided my name: Degé Coutee, social worker, independent
and my e-mail address. I handed it back to woman dressed in an all-black
suit standing among the guardsmen. “Dressed for Halloween?” I thought.
No camera. No recording devices. I actually went in there prepared to be
“And what organization are you with?”
“I’m an independent social worker. I’m here to register for day two of the
conference. It is my understanding that in order to attend tomorrow I have
to register today. I was told I could not pre-register. Here’s my
payment.” I was pleasant but direct because I was following their
instructions that have changed every day since I and others have attempted
to learn how to register for this conference.
My form was handed to a man in a suit standing next to me. “Nope. You
can’t register.” He started to explain the federal grant ID number handing
the form back to me.
“I’m aware of that. I was told that was not necessary for day two…”
“Who told you that?”
I’m sure I cracked a smile. The behavior around me was indicative of what
I discuss in the law enforcement encounter workshops I conduct around the
state. “I spoke to someone on the phone by the name of Valerie…”
“This is Valerie.” Yes, the bitchy woman in the back suit behind the table
among the camoflauged boys – the cop-like woman on the phone. The one who
handed me the form.
“I would never say that,” she insisted. My smile broadened. Cops lie. Cops
lie. Cops lie. It’s a line from my workshop. The first thing I made sure
my participants learn and know for fact is that cops lie. Angel Raich said
at a conference I organized, “How do you know when a cop is lying? His
lips are moving.” I use that often — always give credit where due.
When her lips stopped moving, Valerie pulled the form from my hand. I told
her I would be glad to rid that for her. No go. I’m sure it will appear in
my dea file. I thanked them and walked a few feet from the table around a
corner where I used my phone to connect with a friend elsewhere in the
“We are not going to be able to register even for day two.” I noticed a
few large, white men move around the corner and intently watch me on the
phone. I casually started for the door and completed my call on the patio.
A member of San Diego Co.’s narcotics task force, in full black tactical
gear and trying very hard not look like the mid-life crisis he was having,
stood close behind me while other plain clothed agents gathered behind
him. I faced them and smiled as I started another call.
As I slowly turned and made my way down the walkway, they followed but
just for a bit and then went back to their coffee.
I was eager to leave. Not out of fear but to get back to my room, get my
camera and others and get to the protest at noon.