Marijuana raids draw complaints, protests in state

September 06, 2002

Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune,

OAKLAND -- Protesters planted marijuana sprigs in a concrete planter outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building on Friday, decrying federal agents' raid of a medical marijuana facility near Santa Cruz one day earlier. As similar protests occurred in San Francisco and San Jose, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer wrote to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Drug Enforcement Administration director Asa Hutchinson calling Thursday's raid 'a disheartening addition to a growing list of provocative and intrusive incidents of harassment by the DEA in California. ' 'A medical marijuana provider such as the Santa Cruz collective represents little dan- ger to the public and is certainly not a concern which would warrant diverting scarce federal resources away from the fight against domestic methamphetamine production, heroin distribution or international terror- ism, to cite just a few more worthy priorities,' Lockyer wrote. Staging raids without evidence of any illicit commercial distribution 'is wasteful, unwise and surprisingly insensitive when it comes to listening to Californians who have made clear their support for medicinal marijuana at the ballot box,' he added. The federal government still deems all marijuana growth, possession or use illegal, even though California voters approved medical use in 1996. Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington have similar laws. Lockyer -- who requested a meeting with the federal officials -- also questioned the 'ethical basis' of the DEA's raids, because other recent raids have failed to lead to any criminal charges. Indeed, no charges had been filed by Friday's end against Valerie and Michael Corral, who were awakened Thursday morning by riot-gear-clad, assault-rifle-toting DEA agents raiding their home, the headquarters of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana about 60 miles south of San Francisco. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office would say only that no charges were filed. A call to Assistant U.S. Attorney George L. Bevan Jr., who's prosecuting the Bay Area men arrested in February's DEA raids in Oakland and San Francisco, wasn't returned Friday. DEA spokesman Special Agent Richard Meyer said the ball is entirely in the U.S. Attorney's court, and defended his own agency's actions. 'We went by the book -- we obtained a search warrant, we went and served it, we found marijuana which is an illegal substance, and we took them into custody,' he said Friday. 'We took them to San Jose, to our office, for booking and processing. And by the close of business, the U.S. Attorney's office had not filed charges, so we took them back to their residence as a courtesy.' Meyer said the 167 marijuana plants and small amount of hashish seized in the raid already had been destroyed Friday, and that three rifles and a shotgun -- reportedly heirlooms from Michael Corral's grandfather -- were stored in the DEA's evidence vault. About 75 people, a few in wheelchairs, rallied outside Oakland's federal building Friday, their chants of DEA, go away! echoing in the courtyard. 'This is our Kristallnacht, and we'd better not forget it,' said Dr. Mike Alcalay, medical director of Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative. , likening the raid to the 1938 Nazi 'Night of Broken Glass' rampage against Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues. Berkeley City Councilman Kris Worthington said the Republican Party advocates states' rights to make and enforce their own policies, yet the Bush administration's trouncing of such rights is 'about political expediency and advancing a far-right agenda.' Angel McClary, director of Angel Wings Patient Outreach Inc., a nonprofit group that helps medical marijuana patients, vowed that further raids will be met by further resistance. 'Our bodies may be weak but we are strong of spirit, and we will not back down,' she said. About 15 people protested outside the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., and a few other U.S. cities reported small protests as well.

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