CALIF. MEDICAL-POT SUPPLIERS RAIDED
SAN FRANCISCO -- Federal officials on Thursday said raids on pot clubs here were the first step in uncovering a major international drug operation.
U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan said agents raided three pot clubs that operated as fronts for marijuana and Ecstasy trafficking. He warned that federal drug laws would be strictly enforced even in cities tolerant of medical marijuana.
"We're empathetic to the ill and to the sick; however we cannot disregard federal law," Drug Enforcement Administration agent Javier Pena said.
Twenty people were indicted on federal drug charges in court documents unsealed Thursday, and an arrest warrant has been issued for another. Two others face state drug charges, Ryan said.
Following an investigation dubbed Operation Urban Harvest, officials searched homes and businesses throughout the Bay Area. They seized 9,300 pot plants worth more than $5 million, Ryan said. He said the pot clubs were a base of operation for a larger drug trafficking organization importing and selling marijuana and Ecstasy, and engaging in money laundering.
Despite the city's recognition of medical-pot clubs as legal, San Francisco police participated in the investigation.
Protesters said the arrests frightened patients.
"I'm scared," said Kathleen Prevost, who said she uses marijuana to control her post-traumatic stress disorder. "All I want to do is have access to my medicine."
Authorities said the Supreme Court decision that medical marijuana is illegal was not the impetus behind the busts. But they warned federal laws will be strictly applied.
"There are some members of the public who think they can disregard the courts and Congress," Pena said. "The DEA will not be among them."