Dispensary raids slammed

December 14, 2005

Kimberly Trone, Press-Enterprise

Medical-marijuana users rallied Wednesday outside the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration building in downtown Riverside to protest the agency's recent raids on 13 Southern California marijuana dispensaries.
Caitlin M. Kelly / The Press-Enterprise
La Vonne Victor, 50, of Temecula, a medical marijuana user for five years, and Sharon Crain, 51, left, protest against federal agents who seized marijuana from San Diego-area dispensaries on Monday.

Federal agents seized large quantities of marijuana, records and small amounts of psychedelic mushrooms and hashish from the San Diego-area dispensaries on Monday. No dispensaries in Riverside or San Bernardino counties were raided.

Misha Piastro, a DEA special agent in San Diego, called Monday's sweep a part of one of the administration's most comprehensive investigations in California history. He said the investigation is in its infancy.

"In many cases, we sent in undercover agents who purchased marijuana without providing documentation of any sort," Piastro said. "This was drug trafficking."

Protesters said they are worried the raids are a signal the federal government intends to aggressively challenge a California law that allows the cultivation and use of medicinal marijuana with a physician's recommendation.

The California law is at odds with a June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people who smoke marijuana with a doctor's permission could still be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws.

Oscar Lorigo, 31, of Palm Desert, said he uses marijuana for insomnia after trying to treat his sleeplessness with liquor and pharmaceutical drugs that left him hung over or groggy the next day.

Lorigo, one of about 20 protesters, said the federal government should be focused on fighting crime and not patients who need their medicine.

While Riverside County began taking applications Dec. 1 for state medical-marijuana identification cards, San Diego County has refused to participate in the state-mandated card program.

The San Bernardino County Public Health Department next month plans to begin implementing an ID-card program.

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