Feds Try Stealing Xmas From Medi-Pot Dispensers, Hemp Growers

December 29, 2005

Jordan Smith, Austin Chronicle

DEA agents have been doing their very best impression of the Grinch this month by carrying out a string of raids at medi-pot dispensaries in San Diego and San Francisco, Calif. On Dec. 12, a contingent of agents simultaneously executed 13 warrants in San Diego County, seizing dozens of pounds of marijuana, computer equipment, and patient files from the store front operations that provide sick and dying medi-mari patients who use the drug in accordance with the state's Compassionate Use Act. Then, on Dec. 20, agents struck again, in an early-morning raid at the San Francisco home of Steve and Cathy Smith who run the HopeNet medi-pot dispensary, which, in part, subsidizes the cost of medi-pot for low-income patients. Agents seized 126 plants, cash, computers, and, possibly, patient files from the Smith's home, said Hilary McQuie with the medi-pot patients advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. News of the raid sparked a protest outside the HopeNet office, where approximately 100 patients stood in the rain staring down DEA agents who sat in their cars for several hours before leaving. Although the patients thought that meant victory, the agents returned at about 6pm, after the patients left, to raid the dispensary, said McQuie, after hitting HopeNet's warehouse facility where agents seized another 500 plants.

"I am totally in shock and bewildered," Steve Smith told the San Jose Mercury-News. "I don't know how I am going to take care of my patients. Some are dying right now."

Interestingly, the feds have yet to file criminal charges against any of the people involved with the San Diego or San Francisco operations. The December raids in California are the most high-profile busts the feds have undertaken since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that the government, under the Commerce Clause, may pursue medicinal marijuana patients, and their suppliers, for violating the Controlled Substances Act, which bans the use of marijuana. In Gonzales v. Raich, a majority of the court opined that because marijuana is illegal under federal law, even California's wholly intrastate medi-pot industry may actually have some collateral effect – either positive or negative – on the illegal trafficking of pot across state lines, thus allowing the feds to stick their noses into what would otherwise be considered state business. In the years before Angel Raich filed suit against the government in an effort to ban their interference, the feds had been on a veritable rampage of medi-pot raids. While Raich was pending that activity slowed.

Since the June decision, things have been relatively quiet – at least until last week. To McQuie, the raids feel like attempts at federal intimidation. "But it's not working," she said, noting that many of the dispensaries shut down by the San Diego action were open for business the very next day. "There is a need," she said. "If they close one [dispensary], another will open. So [this strategy] isn't going to work."

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