DEA Raids Four Bay Area Medical Marijuana Operations

December 20, 2005

KTVU/Bay City News, KTVU - TV 2

Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided four Bay Area medical marijuana operations seizing 839 plants worth nearly $2 million, DEA Public Information Officer Casey McEnry said Wednesday.


The daylong enforcement operation kicked off Tuesday around 7 a.m. with two simultaneous crackdowns at a San Francisco home and a Penngrove, Sonoma County, barn, McEnry said.


During those raids, DEA agents confiscated about 339 pot plants, paperwork and a large amount of cash believed to be marijuana sales profits, McEnry said.


A midday raid of San Francisco's HopeNet, run by previously searched and detained homeowners Steve and Cathy Smith, was postponed until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday after nearly 100 demonstrators turned out to vehemently protest what some said was an uncalled assault on one of San Francisco's most patient-friendly co-ops.


Just hours after the protesters celebrated scaring away two DEA agents posted outside the business at 233 Ninth St., DEA raided HopeNet confiscating marijuana brownies and butter, McEnry said.


Shortly before the HopeNet raid, DEA agents also cracked down on a warehouse located near the Smiths' home in the 200 block of Clara Street, McEnry said. In that raid, DEA agents seized about 500 marijuana plants.


No arrests had been made as of Wednesday morning.


"I think it is very bizarre that this is happening to one of the best dispensers in the city," Hilary McQuie with Americans for Safe Access, a national coalition that works to protect the rights of medical marijuana users, said Tuesday. "This is a mean-spirited, cold-hearted act for the DEA to do right before the holiday season." She added today, "I think it was a very inefficient operation."


The enforcement operation stemmed from a two-year ongoing investigation launched by an anonymous tip that led investigators to the Penngrove barn near Redwood Highway.


"As the investigation continued at the residence in Penngrove, it led us to the residence in Clara Street," McEnry said.


She added that all the raids were related in some way, but wouldn't comment further as the investigation was still under way.


The DEA requested the search warrants for the homes first because that's where the investigation led, McEnry said, adding that the agents subsequently obtained information that prompted them to request the additional search warrants for the co-op and warehouse.


"(For the DEA) to take medicine away from those who need it at this time of the year is an outrage," said San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, who joined the demonstrators during an on-site news conference Tuesday.


Daly oversees District 6, which has one of the city's highest numbers of cannabis dispensaries. He said he had visited between eight and 12 cannabis facilities, out of which HopeNet ranked as the most community- and patient-oriented co-op.


California voters legalized pot use for medical purposes in 1996, but medical marijuana use remains against federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that California's medical marijuana law doesn't protect sick people using the drug from being prosecuted under federal law.


The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which passed a moratorium on all new dispensaries on March 30, recently approved an ordinance regulating medical marijuana club permits.


According to Wayne Justmann, a longtime medical marijuana activist, San Francisco is home to nearly 35 medical marijuana dispensaries, more than any other place in the nation.


Tony Bowles, a HopeNet community liaison, also spoke out Tuesday against the pending raid and asked the DEA to acknowledge the legitimacy of medical marijuana.


But McEnry said Wednesday that the federal law prohibiting the use and sale of medical marijuana is very clear and that it is the duty of the DEA to uphold that law no matter what medical marijuana activists propose.


The DEA raided 13 dispensaries in San Diego last week, but hasn't raided a San Francisco pot club since June when three were raided.

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