Feds invade California

  1. PenguinPhreak
    After the Supreme Court ruled against
    Angel Raich and Diane Monson in early June, clearing the way for the
    federal government to enforce federal pot laws in medpot states, many
    people sought to "calm" medical patients, growers and providers.

    attorney general, medical cannabis advocates, and even the DEA said
    that the feds had no intention of making massive attacks against
    medical marijuana.

    Activists who spoke to Cannabis Culture,
    however, warned that DEA raids were sure to come, and criticized those
    in the cannabis community who said that even after the ruling, "nothing
    would change."

    Well, it's changed.

    This week, DEA storm
    troopers swooped down on San Francisco, raiding at least three medical
    marijuana dispensaries and arresting 14 people out of 20 charged in a
    federal indictment that claims medical cannabis clubs are organized
    crime, drug trafficking, money-laundering operations with links to
    Oakland warehouses containing supersize cannabis gardens.

    raids raise several troubling issues that are unlikely to be resolved
    soon. One issue is that local San Francisco law enforcement agents
    participated in the raids, and the investigations that led to the
    raids. Although reports say local police did not enter the three clubs
    and actually make arrests, local police did admit to being in on the
    busts and assisting in the arrest of suspects.

    The raids may
    well have originated in investigations by San Francisco police and
    other local officers, who have busted dozens of indoor
    marijuana-growing operations in the Sunset District and across the bay
    in Oakland in the last year. Authorities hinted that the locals called
    in the DEA to carry out this week's raids.

    This could violate
    the letter and spirit of city ordinances that prohibit San Fran cops
    from enforcing federal medical marijuana laws in a city known to be the
    most pot-friendly city in the US. During the Dennis Peron years, when
    massive medpot clubs openly existed without much problem, San Francisco
    politicians and even some members of the law enforcement community
    hinted that local police would literally go to war against the DEA if
    DEA tried to invade San Francisco to arrest medpot providers, growers,
    and patients.

    But these aren't the Peron years anymore. This
    week, federal and local agents hit cannabis clubs on Ocean Avenue in
    the Ingleside neighborhood and Judah Street in the Inner Sunset
    district. Published reports indicate that people who lived and worked
    near the clubs had not complained about them.

    In police state
    tactics typical of the US federal government, which routinely uses
    secret trials, detentions, and sealed indictments, DEA refused to tell
    journalists during the raids about the indictment that led to the raids.

    Hilary McQuie, spokeswoman for the medpot advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access
    in Oakland, said the raids and allegations of organized crime might be
    a smokescreen to obscure a federal attack on bona fide medpot clubs.

    'organized crime' brings up visions of violent activity, but if all
    they are supporting is the sale of marijuana, police can call that
    organized crime," McQuie said. "They will need to show there's
    distribution outside the dispensaries. I want to wait and see."

    raids took on the drama of a television crime movie as dozens of
    military-equipped DEA agents, along with Internal Revenue Service
    spooks, cut the lock off the door of the Herbal Relief Center on Ocean
    Street, and then ransacked the establishment, carrying away dozens of
    marijuana plants, heat lamps and generators.

    A man outside the store identified himself as Van Nguyen and said he had owned the business for more than five years.

    run a service," said Nguyen, a City College business student who for
    some reason was not arrested in the raid on his club. "I am definitely
    worried, but I want to make sure the message is out and the patients
    are taken care of."

    Nguyen says his club was a legitimate source of medicine for 2,000 medical marijuana patients.

    have a couple of people in that group who are dying, and they won't be
    getting their marijuana on Monday," he said. He denied that the club
    was a front for organized crime. "I have nothing to do with that at
    all. I make sure the patients in this neighborhood are well taken care

    The raids drive home the changes and uncertainties
    wrought by the Raich decision. Since then, Oregon briefly suspended and
    then re-opened its medical cannabis card program. Some medpot
    dispensaries in California and other medical cannabis states
    voluntarily closed, fearing federal raids. Cities that had established
    municipal guidelines allowing medical cannabis clubs began dismantling
    those guidelines, which will lead to a ban on clubs.

    Francisco government officials had already begun to attack medical
    cannabis, passing an ordinance in April that put a moratorium on new
    clubs, and attempted to enforce or create business licenses and other
    regulations for clubs, which had been operating without authorization
    or scrutiny from the city.

    Reports indicated that the city had at least 45 marijuana dispensaries before the moratorium and the Raich ruling.

    Fran officials now say there are 35 clubs known to the city, but that
    there are likely to be dozens more operating under the radar.

    Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and other hardline anti-cannabis politicians
    and residents have demanded that the city close or more closely
    regulate cannabis clubs. He wants to follow the example of Oakland,
    which arbitrarily limits the number of cannabis clubs that can exist in
    the city. Elsbernd wants a maximum of only eight cannabis clubs in San
    Francisco; he also wants club owners and operators to undergo an
    application and regulation process similar to that used for liquor
    licenses and bars.

    Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, also supports stricter regulations.

    absence of laws only puts out a welcome mat for potential problems," he
    said. "That's how we got to the place where we are today."

    Gerardo Sandoval, whose district includes two of the raided clubs,
    voiced the suspicions of many San Francisco cannabis advocates,
    wondering if the raids are "a pretext to meddle in San Francisco's
    well-established medical marijuana policies."

    "It's pretty
    clear the Bush administration is not very happy about San Francisco's
    efforts," Sandoval said. "If there's money laundering or organized
    crime involved, then by all means we welcome federal law enforcement.
    But I have to ask myself, 'Why now?'"

    "It's not an attack on
    medical marijuana," responded an anonymous DEA spokesperson. "This is
    an organized crime group that is using the whole pot club thing as a

    Medical cannabis grower-patient Chris M. told Cannabis Culture
    that the federal raids were anticipated, and the patients are going to
    become increasingly militant if the city doesn't stand down the feds.

    lot of us are already dying, very ill, vomiting, wasting away, in pain,
    you name it," he said. "We don't have much to lose. We're ready to die
    anyway. There's talk of having terminally ill patients camp out at the
    dispensaries and get into it with any feds who come in. It's time for
    direct action. We've tried to believe in democracy by counting on the
    voters and the courts. There are no rights in this country. It's
    obvious that now we have to fight the DEA face to face, and if they
    kill us, what's the difference; without our medicine, we are already
    dead anyway."</font></font>

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