Feds Target Pot Dispensaries in California

June 21, 2005

Don Thompson, Associated Press

Federal drug agents launched a crackdown on medical marijuana providers in California Wednesday, raiding more than 20 dispensaries and charging two people.

In San Francisco, drug agents searched three pot clubs and more than 20 homes and businesses, capping a two-year investigation into an alleged marijuana trafficking ring. Officials would not say how many people were arrested or give other details, pending a news conference Thursday.

In Sacramento, Dr. Marion Fry, and her husband, Dale Schafer, were arrested on charges they grew and distributed marijuana from their storefront California Medical Research Center between August 1999 and September 2001.

The actions came two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana users can be prosecuted under federal law even if their home states allow use of the drug. California is one of 10 states that allow medicinal marijuana use.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown said the Supreme Court ruling 'lays to rest any question whether federal authorities have jurisdiction.' Prosecutors also said the cases involve illegal drug runners operating under the guise of legitimate medical marijuana providers.

But Laurence Lichter, an attorney representing Fry and Schafer, questioned the charges against his clients, who according to the indictment grew more than 100 marijuana plants during the two-year period.

'Marijuana was legal in this part of the United States until this month, so any attempt to hold them as serious criminals would have been, I think, inappropriate,' he said.

Elsewhere Wednesday, the Rhode Island House passed a bill that would allow certain patients to grow and smoke marijuana. A similar bill passed the state Senate two weeks ago.

Gov. Don Carcieri has threatened to veto the legislation, but lawmakers said they are confident the bill had enough votes to override a veto.

'For me, it has always been a matter of compassion _ simple compassion,' said Democratic Rep. Steven Costantino. 'And I've always been amused by the fear that this is going to cause all of a sudden' an out-of-control use of marijuana.

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