Raid On Area Medical Marijuana Club Leaves City In Middle

November 28, 2007

Kurt Helin, Gazette Newspapers (CA)

Long Beach has become the latest city caught in a crossfire between the state and federal governments over medical marijuana.

Last week, federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials raided the Long Beach Cannabis Club, which is located downtown (near a new condominium project and the CityPlace center). Agents seized 33 kilos of marijuana, about $10,000 cash and arrested the proprietor, Samuel Matthew Fata.

Since the raid, the club has remained closed. But there are an estimated 10 other clubs operating in Long Beach, according to a list put together by the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s office.

Similar clubs sprang up throughout the state in the wake of voters adopting Proposition 215 in 1996 (followed by subsequent court battles that ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the law).

While California law allows the distribution of marijuana for medical reasons, federal law prohibits the selling of marijuana for any reason.

Long Beach currently has no official policy on the clubs, said City Attorney Robert Shannon.

“There really is (no policy), except that we will not issue a business license to a company that violates federal law,” Shannon said.

None of the clubs currently operating in Long Beach has a business license in the city, or at least not a license for the type of business actually taking place, Shannon said.

In 2005, the city received several applications for medical marijuana clubs, but those applications were put on hold as the City Council asked for a moratorium on issuing the permits. The council asked at that time that proper regulations be put in place to regulate the clubs. However, nothing ever formally came forward.

Finding a balance is not easy as the clubs exist in a legal limbo.

“This is a very difficult issue for the city attorney’s office to take a position on because (the federal and state laws) are in direct conflict,” Shannon said.

Several City Council members asked about this issue last week but no action was taken.

In the absence of clear legal guidelines, municipalities have dealt differently with the clubs. The city of Oakland set up a law that brought in several canabis clubs, while the small Northern California city of Rocklin outlawed the clubs late last year.

The DEA has raided clubs throughout California and charged the owners with violations of federal drug laws.



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