Pot Raids Fill Private Prisons

November 08, 2010

David Downs, East Bay Express

San Jose doesn't know whether to tax, license, or jail its medical pot providers, so it's doing all three. Leading medical pot lobby Americans for Safe Access says over the past month, the Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team, a local multi-agency police force, has arrested dozens of people in multiple raids. Local police say dispensary sales are illegal under state law. Patients say "reimbursements" are legal, pointing to the fact that local voters just approved taxes on them, and the city council prepares to issue historic pot club regulations. That has activists fuming. More news after the jump....

... The first set of raids in early October targeted patients and local delivery services, and resulted in 22 arrests, the ASA says. Subsequent dispensary raids in mid- and late-October resulted in at least a dozen additional arrests and the seizure of more than one hundred pounds of medical marijuana and other property.

Meanwhile, voters in San Jose just approved Measure U to tax the local sale of medical marijuana at up to 10 percent, on top of the state's existing sales tax. The city council is also deliberating a local ordinance to regulate and license what has grown to more than eighty dispensaries in San Jose.

"How can the City of San Jose impose an exorbitant tax on the sale of medical marijuana at the same time as arresting and prosecuting the same people for selling it?" asks Lauren Vazquez with the ASA. "This inconsistent and misguided practice has to end."

The clubs note taxpayer money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act likely helped pay for the raids. Those funds were earmarked to fight methamphetamine.

“How the [police] can cavalierly divert federal funding is beyond comprehension,” said Paul Stewart, executive director of the Medicinal Cannabis Collective Coalition (MC3) in San Jose. “These monies were given to the county to combat the sales and distribution of meth, not for harassing medical cannabis patients.”

The ASA hosts a "Know Your Rights" training, after a march on the San Jose City Council meeting at 3:30 p.m. today.

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