Feds raid Mission pot club

October 04, 2006

Liz Highleyman, Bay Area Reporter


n the latest federal government action against medical marijuana providers, Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the New Remedies cannabis dispensary on Mission Street and several associated facilities on Tuesday, October 3.

While California and about a dozen other states have laws permitting the medicinal use of cannabis by qualified patients, the federal government considers marijuana illegal under all circumstances and denies that the drug has any legitimate medical uses.

"It's unfortunate that the government continues to ignore scientific findings and waste taxpayer dollars persecuting the sick and those who help them," said William Dolphin of the Oakland-based medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.

According to the limited information available at press time, the DEA raided the dispensary at 1760 Mission Street on Tuesday morning, as well as a warehouse growing facility at 790 Tennessee Street on Potrero Hill, an administrative office on Franklin Street in Oakland, and as many as five other locations associated with New Remedies.

A total of 15 people were arrested, and were scheduled to be arraigned in federal court on Wednesday, as the Bar Area Reporter went to press. Among them was New Remedies owner Sparky Rose, who was under suspicion of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and money laundering. Agents also seized nearly 13,000 cannabis plants, processed marijuana, computers, automobiles, and $125,000 in cash.

"Make no mistake, the defendants were in the business of dealing dope," DEA Special Agent Javier Pena told the San Francisco Chronicle. "They were using the pot clubs as facades to make millions of dollars."

"It's disturbing that the federal government continues to insist that anyone who's trying to help patients is a drug dealer," Dolphin told the Bay Area Reporter. "Medical marijuana dispensaries are sitting ducks. Drug dealers who just want make a profit know how to do that without setting up a storefront."

Mayor Gavin Newsom told KTVU Channel 2 news that he did not support federal raids on legitimate dispensaries, but added that medical cannabis providers should "do it appropriately within the letter and the spirit of the law."

New Remedies (previously known as Mission Caregivers) was associated with Compassionate Caregivers, a large medical cannabis operation with multiple locations throughout the state, including Oakland and San Leandro. All facilities suspended operation after the West Hollywood dispensary was raided and the organization's bank accounts were seized in a joint action by the federal government and the Los Angeles Police Department in May 2005. Rose then reorganized and reopened under the new name.

Although the DEA has recently taken action against several other Northern California medical cannabis facilities outside the Bay Area, two dispensaries located within a few blocks of New Remedies – Mr. Nice Guy on Valencia Street and the Love Shack on 14th Street – were not included in Tuesday's raids. Mr. Nice Guy was closed that afternoon, and a doorman at the Love Shack who declined to give his name told the B.A.R. , "We have had no problems today."

"[New Remedies] was a victim of its own success, too large not to attract adverse attention from the feds," said Dale Gieringer of the California chapter of the National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "There are no indications that this was part of a larger sweep, but it would be foolish to assume that this will be the last DEA medical marijuana bust."

About two-dozen protesters gathered outside the Mission Street dispensary during and after the raid, and, according to Dolphin, further actions are planned.

"We have to take to the streets and let people know this has an enormous impact on patients," he said. "It's reprehensible for the government to go after places designed to help sick people. Where else are the elderly and the disabled supposed to go?"

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