Medical marijuana dispensaries raided around San Diego region
September 08, 2009
Kristina Davis, San Diego Union Tribune
Law enforcement officers raided an unknown number of medical marijuana dispensaries around the San Diego region Wednesday, authorities said.
The District Attorney's Office, which is heading the multi-agency operation, declined to give further details, saying more information would be released Thursday.
Word of the raids began spreading about noon Wednesday with reports of armed officers from San Diego police, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and other agencies bursting into dispensaries or collectives.
Raids were reported at a handful of dispensaries, including Pacific Beach Collective on Turquoise Street, Green Kross Collective on Mission Boulevard and Hillcrest Compassion Care on University Boulevard. Late Wednesday, a red sign in front of Pacific Beach Collective read: “This location has been involved in the trafficking of illegal narcotics. Criminal prosecution is pending.”
It was unclear how many people were arrested or what charges they faced. Calls to numerous dispensaries were unanswered Wednesday.
Thomas Carpentier, a 50-year-old patient from La Jolla who struggles with arthritis, tried to buy medicinal pot from two dispensaries Wednesday but found them closed.
“These guys were trying to run a straight shop all the time,” Carpentier said while standing in front of Pacific Beach Collective. “They did everything right.”
The raids shook the medical marijuana community and prompted angry responses.
Don Duncan, California director for Americans for Safe Access, said in a statement: “Not only does the federal government have no place helping to enforce state and local medical marijuana laws, local officials must regulate medical marijuana and enforce those laws with civil actions, not with the barrel of a gun.”
Although marijuana is illegal under federal law, state law permits its use, as long as a doctor recommends it.
The coordinated raids came a day after the San Diego City Council voted to create a citizen task force to study how to better regulate the dispensaries.
As requests have popped up around the county to open such facilities, several cities have responded by banning dispensaries or enacting a moratorium.
Only nine dispensaries are officially licensed by the city of San Diego, but Pacific Beach resident Scott Chipman of SavePB.org says 60 are operating. He has been working with the city to close the dispensaries, saying they are for-profit, which is against state regulations.
“These are in every single person's neighborhood,” Chipman said Wednesday. “They are all over the city.”
Dr. Bob Blake, director of Medical Marijuana of San Diego, suspects many of the dispensaries were lulled into a false sense of security when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a San Diego County case and put the issue back in the hands of the state.
“I think it's a tremendous step backward for medical marijuana patients of San Diego County,” Blake said.
Staff writer Jose Luis Jiménez contributed to this report.