LA City Council to Vote to End DEA Raids on Medical Marijuana Providers

April 01, 2008
Los Angeles, CA -- The Los Angeles City Council will vote Wednesday on a resolution introduced by Council members Dennis Zine, Janice Hahn, and Bill Rosendahl calling for an end to federal interference in California's medical marijuana laws. The resolution, introduced February 27th, supports State Senate Joint Resolution 20 (Migden), which urges Congress and the President to enact legislation requiring federal law enforcement to respect state medical marijuana laws, to cease raids of medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating legally under California and local law, and to return any assets seized from medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives to the states in which they are located. Advocates have calculated that dispensaries in California contribute as much as $100 million in sales tax revenue to the general fund.
What: Press conference to highlight vote on Zine-Hahn-Rosendahl resolution
When: Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 9:45am
Where: 3rd Floor Media Room (Behind Council Chambers), Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St.
Why: To highlight City Council vote at 10am on resolution calling for an end to DEA interference in state law
Who: Council members Dennis Zine, Janice Hahn, Bill Rosendahl & Lisa Sawoya, a former dispensary operator raided by the DEA
"We welcome the help and leadership of the Los Angeles City Council," said Don Duncan, California Campaign Director with Americans for Safe Access. "Local officials standing up to the DEA, and demanding an end to its harmful tactics, is exactly what is needed if we are to effectively implement California's medical marijuana law."

Ever since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) increased its attack on California's medical marijuana law, Los Angeles has been a focus of federal attention. In 2007, the DEA raided more than thirty medical marijuana dispensaries in the Los Angeles area and sent letters to at least 200 landlords of dispensaries, threatening them with criminal prosecution and seizure of their property. At the height of DEA activity in Los Angeles, on July 25, 2007, the DEA raided several facilities the same day that the City Council was voting to establish dispensary regulations. Also on that day, Council member Zine, a Republican and former LAPD officer, sent a letter to then-DEA Administrator Karen Tandy urging her to end federal interference in local and state laws.

Since then, Mayors from Oakland, Santa Cruz and West Hollywood have sent letters to House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI) calling for Congressional hearings on the matter. Several other local governments have joined Los Angeles in condemning federal interference, including San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. The latest public call to end federal interference comes from the state legislature, with State Senator Carole Migden's (D-San Francisco) introduction of Senate Joint Resolution 20 earlier this year. The bill cleared the Senate Health Committee last Wednesday and will be heard next by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Advocates and more than a half-dozen medical marijuana dispensary operators, who were victims of DEA interference, testified last month before the State Board of Equalization. Raided dispensary operators, like Lisa Sawoya of Los Angeles, complained that despite abiding by state law, including the required collection and payment of sales tax, the state has failed to protect these health care facilities. And, as California attempts to deal with its fiscal crisis, the combined annual investment of $100 million in sales tax revenue from the state's approximately 400 dispensaries is considerable and worthy of protection.

The DEA's most recent attack on medical marijuana providers occurred on March 20th in Los Angeles, when six facilities were raided on the same day. Dispensary operator Virgil Grant, the victim of the latest round of raids, testified last week at a City Council meeting, calling on them to help end federal interference. Grant was paying tens of thousands of dollars in sales tax to the state. "It's very difficult to comply with state law with the DEA continuing to raid legally-sanctioned dispensaries," said Grant. "It's time for the Los Angeles City Council and other local governments do their part to end DEA interference."

Further information:
Zine-Hahn-Rosendahl Resolution: http://clkrep.lacity.org/councilfiles/08-0002-s24_reso_2-27-08.pdf
ASA Fact Sheet on Escalation of DEA Raids: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/dea_escalation.pdf
ASA Fact Sheet on Sales Tax: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/sales_tax_fact_sheet.pdf
ASA Fact Sheet on Senate Joint Resolution 20: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/SJR_20_Fact_Sheet.pdf

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With over 30,000 active members in more than 40 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.

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