Activists Rally As Feds Raid Medical Marijuana Clinics

January 17, 2007

City News Service, NBC 4 TV (LA)

About 100 people demonstrated outside West Hollywood City Hall Thursday to protest Wednesday's federal raids on 11 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County, organizers said.


Federal authorities do not recognize the California law -- approved by voters in 1996 as Proposition 215 -- that allows patients with a doctor's prescription to have marijuana.


William Dolphin, a spokesman for the Oakland-based pro-medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access, said the gathering was an "angry and concerned protest."

"Whenever we see these kinds of coordinated and simultaneous raids ... clearly the idea is to intimidate and frighten," Dolphin said.


In West Hollywood, marijuana outlets were raided at 7828, 7825, 7901 and 8464 Santa Monica Blvd., and at 8921 Sunset Blvd.


During Wednesday's raids, about 50 protesters shadowed DEA agents, who wore body armor, helmets and face masks as they carted away evidence.


Six other stores were raided, including four in the San Fernando Valley, one in Hollywood and one in Venice, said Sarah Pullen of the DEA.


Pullen said that about 20 people were detained. She did not have immediate numbers regarding possible arrests or how much marijuana was seized.


Los Angeles County has an estimated 200 marijuana outlets.


The Los Angeles Police Commission voted Tuesday to support a moratorium on new marijuana outlets, and police Chief William Bratton pledged to work with federal authorities to close the dispensaries.


Ralph Partridge, who heads the Drug Enforcement Administration office in Los Angeles, said the raids showed that the storefront operations are "nothing more than drug trafficking organizations bringing criminal activities to our neighborhoods and drugs near our children and schools."


The West Hollywood City Council voted Tuesday night to strengthen restrictions on marijuana outlets, but some council members have sympathized with those who contend they need pot as medicine.


"The city of West Hollywood has had a long-standing commitment to the compassionate use of medical marijuana for those persons who are facing catastrophic illnesses," City Manager Paul Arevalo said.


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