Feds Raid 5 Of 7 Medical Marijuana Clinics In WeHo

January 16, 2007

CBS and the Associated Press, CBS 2 TV (LA)

Federal agents raided five of the seven medical marijuana dispensaries in West Hollywood Wednesday, along with six others throughout Los Angeles County, authorities said. West Hollywood city officials said Drug Enforcement Administration raids were carried out at dispensaries at 7828, 7825, 7901 and 8464 Santa Monica Blvd., and at a dispensary at 8921 Sunset Blvd.

Sarah Pullen of the DEA said six other dispensaries were searched, including four in the San Fernando Valley, one in Hollywood and one in Venice.

She said she could not provide specifics of the raids because the warrants were under court seal, "but obviously we are looking for marijuana and other illegal drugs, marijuana edibles and evidence of ongoing criminal activity and anything from paperwork to documents -- you name it."

Several people were detained but none were arrested, Pullen said, although she said arrests may be forthcoming.

She said although medical marijuana is legal in California, "federal law doesn't differentiate. Marijuana is illegal in any form."
"... The DEA is here to enforce federal drug laws," she said.

"Federal law does have supremacy over state law where there is a difference between federal law and state law by a ruling of the Supreme Court. Therefore, marijuana is illegal."

West Hollywood officials decried the raids.

"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.

Pullen said the places that were served with search warrants were chosen through "citizen complaints and increased criminal activities surrounding the establishments, from parking violations to armed robbery to break ins to graffiti to hand-to-hand sales outside."

She said there are at least 200 marijuana distribution centers operating in Los Angeles County.

Sheriff's Deputy Ed Hernandez said the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department provided traffic control and security in the West Hollywood locations.

West Hollywood City Councilman Jeffrey Prang said he drove by one of the locations this afternoon and it had been taped off.

"The DEA was inside, going through computer files and papers," said Prang, who is employed by the Sheriff's Department in a civilian capacity.

The raids came on the heels of a vote by the West Hollywood City Council last night "toughening the restrictions affecting these establishments," said Prang.

"West Hollywood has been a leader and advocate of the compassionate use of marijuana for people with HIV and other serious illnesses who find it brings them relief," Prang said.

He said marijuana is known to lessen the nausea connected with chemotherapy treatments used to treat cancer and also helps people with HIV or AIDS who get "wasting syndrome."

The marijuana helps them maintain their appetite, he said.

"I'm not an expert, but if people are terminally sick or are suffering, why would one deny them access?" he said.

He said another medical marijuana dispensary was raided in the San Fernando Valley last week, and several in Northern California were raided over the last few weeks.

Arevalo said the city had no advance knowledge of the raids.

"It is regrettable that the federal, state and local governments cannot work together on this issue," he said.

Supporters of the medical marijuana dispensaries said they plan to stage a protest at West Hollywood City Hall tomorrow to condemn the raids.

"The DEA continues to say that they are not going after patients," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access. "But every time they raid a medical cannabis dispensary, hundreds of the most seriously ill lose their access to medicine."

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