Blog Voices from the Frontlines
Some Examples of Local Cooperation with the DEA in Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients - Americans for Safe AccessSo, think about this. Medical marijuana use and cultivation has been legal in California since 1996, but more than ten years later, there are still local law enforcement agents who refuse to follow state law. Especially since the Raich decision in 2005, many California law enforcement officials have cooperated with the federal government in investigating, raiding, and arresting medical marijuana patients and providers. In the most egregious cases, local governments have actively regulated and issued permits to these providers, only to have local law enforcement later turn them over the federal government. Here is an incomplete list of some stories of this practice, feel free to post others in comments with source links.
- On 9/13/07, DEA and Nevada County Sheriffs raided several residences near Big Oak Valley, and arrested 3 individual patient-cultivators for cultivating 190 plants. Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal initiated the investigation, and utilized federal DEA warrants because federal charges carry more jail time upon conviction than state cases and he intends to continue to raid collective cultivation sites. "We asked for help through the U.S. Attorney, and the DEA came through with the warrants," Royal said. Source
- On 8/29/07, DEA, San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force, and San Mateo PD raided 3 dispensing collectives in San Mateo (Patients Choice Resource Cooperative, Peninsula Patients Local Option, M.H.T.), confiscating medicine and shutting them down. After considering a letter he had received from Patients Choice that explained the legality of dispensing collectives under state law, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe decided to call in the DEA to raid the dispensaries. "We could have sat here and spent a great deal of taxpayer money in San Mateo County, prosecuting it and going through the appeals, or we could bring the case to the attention of the federal government," Wagstaffe said. Source
- On 7/25/07, DEA & LAPD raided 10 dispensing collectives in Los Angeles, confiscating medicine, arresting 5 and closing many of the collectives. Specifically, one LAPD Officer, Detective Dennis Packer, was caught on video wearing DEA regalia and actively participating in the raid, and was a cross-deputized agent. While the LAPD promised to investigate his role in the raid, on 8/16/07, LAPD Commander David R. Doan told the Los Angeles City Council that the LAPD will continue to participate in federal raids on local medical marijuana dispensing collectives. Doan told council members (many of who were pressuring him not to cooperate) that the LAPD had a positive relationship with the DEA and he did not want to risk damaging that relationship and that it was LAPD policy to provide assistance with lawful federal warrants. Doan stated, "If it's going to be our position to say we're not going to help the [Drug Enforcement Administration], I'm not authorized to make that statement today," Doan said. Sources here, here, here and here.
- On 5/1/07, DEA, Kern County Sheriffs & Bakersfield PD raided Nature’s Medicinal Collective in Oildale and confiscated medicine, warning the dispensing collective not to reopen. It reopened anyway, and as the culmination of an 18-month investigation, the same law enforcement agencies raided again on 7/17/07, confiscating medicine and eventually arresting 8 patients on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, remarked after the first raid, “I understand why they are offended. First you regulate us and then arrest us. It’s contradictory and I am aware of that.” Eventually, all 6 dispensing collectives in the Bakersfield area closed, with one owner/operator crediting his decision to an alleged discussion where Sheriff Youngblood informed him of his intention to call the DEA to shut him down. The Sheriff himself took credit for these shutdowns in Business Week, saying that his own warnings, combined with the federal raids, have eliminated dispensing collectives in Kern County. "It is a federal crime, and federal law trumps California law," he says. Sheriff Youngblood then announced in 8/07 that he will not issue any more dispensing collective licenses (which is his job under the Kern County dispensing collective regulation ordinance) as he feels that he is helping people break the law. Sources are here, here, here, here, and here.
- On 3/29/07, DEA & San Luis Obispo County Sheriffs raided Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay, confiscating medicine, and arresting 1 patient-employee on state charges. The Sheriffs spent the afternoon inside the dispensing collective with the DEA, taking down names and other information of patients arriving throughout the day. Sheriff's Sergeant and Public Information Officer Brian Hascall reported that the raid was the culmination of a year-long investigation by his Department. "The entire investigation started with us," Hascall said in a later interview. "I can't say why, but we started the investigation, and then because of the nature of the investigation, we requested the DEA's assistance, and it became a joint investigation between the two of us. That's common for it to be done that way." The Sheriffs did not get a state search warrant, and used a federal search warrant to carry out a local arrest warrant. Hascall explained that the Sheriff's Department has a duty to uphold both state and federal laws, pointing to the oath of office that requires them to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America as well as the Constitution of the State of California. "That's where the conflict between the federal law and the state law becomes such a problem," Hascall said. Sarah Pullen, Public Information Officer for the DEA's Los Angeles field division said that the agency does typically use local law enforcement in all enforcement actions. Source
- On 7/17/07, presumably as a result of evidence gathered in the previous state-initiated raid, DEA arrested Charles Lynch (owner/operator of Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers) at his residence. He is currently being federally charged with manufacturing and distributing marijuana, distributing marijuana to a person under 21, possession with intent to distribute, maintaining a drug-involved premise, and aiding and abetting to distribute marijuana and his case is ongoing. Source
- On 9/27/06, DEA, IRS and Modesto PD raided the California Healthcare Collective in Modesto, confiscating medicine and arresting 4 patients. Modesto PD and DEA engaged in a 15-month investigation in which they sent officers to purchase cannabis from the clinic. Modesto Police Chief Roy Wasden’s gave a statement supporting the raid: "Make no mistake about it…It simply will not be tolerated." Sources here and here.
- On 12/12/05, and then again on 7/6/06, after a self-characterized joint investigation, DEA, San Diego County Sheriffs, and San Diego PD raided 11 dispensing collectives in San Diego under federal and state search warrants, confiscating medicine, arresting 6 on federal charges, and then pressured the rest of the city’s dispensaries to shut down. San Diego County DA Bonnie Dumanis filed state charges against five dispensing collectives and during the investigation, San Diego PD officers went to doctors to get recommendations and also visited dispensaries, posing as legitimate patients. After the raids, Dumanis put the unraided dispensaries on notice, saying, “We've raided some of you today. We'll raid the rest of you if you do not cease and desist. We'll raid you again and again.” Sources here, here and here.
Obfuscation by Kern County Officials Means No Access for Hundreds of Area Medical Marijuana Patients - Americans for Safe AccessIn the latest saga of obfuscation by Kern County officials, District Attorney Ed Jagels has recommended the banning of dispensaries in the county. The Bakersfield Californian quotes Jagels in an October 10 article as saying, "I do not think we benefit from the cooperative/collective licensing ordinance." Who doesn't benefit, and what exactly are the problems caused by the existing ordinance approved by the Kern County Board of Supervisors in 2006? Let's be very clear about this. The people who stand to lose the most from a lack of dispensaries in Kern are the hundreds of patients now forced to travel to other counties to obtain their medical marijuana. Let's be clear about another thing. The Kern County Sheriff was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to oversee the dispensary permitting process as defined by the county's regulatory ordinance. The fact that Sheriff Youngblood cooperated with federal DEA agents to raid and close the same dispensaries that had been permitted by his office is cause for great concern. I wonder if Sheriff Youngblood understands that medical marijuana patients and providers are prevented from using medical evidence at their federal trial. Is it possible that Sheriff Youngblood couldn't figure out how to file charges under state law, or was he trying to ensure a conviction in federal court for conduct with which he disagreed, even if he had to violate his own ordinance to do it? There's one more thing to be clear about. The Kern County Board of Supervisors did the right thing in adopting the 2006 ordinance regulating dispensaries. The dispensaries that were permitted under the ordinance and the communities surrounding them had very few problems. But, Sheriff Youngblood wasn't the same Sheriff that took part in drafting the ordinance, and now he has succeeded in undermining both state and local law. The solution is not, as suggested by DA Jagels, to shut down dispensaries or ban them from Kern County. The best solution is one of the options offered by the Kern County Counsel -- maintain the current ordinance, but appoint another agency to oversee the permitting process. Kern County patients rely on these facilities, and it's up to county officials to figure out how to effectively regulate them.
And the one vote I will consistently cast is to support medical use of marijuana. My extensive corporate management experience with employees, who fell victim, albeit rarely, to substance abuse is based on medical and other professional training, not on the viewpoint of archaic hysteria. As an expert in employee recovery programs, I know this drug to be fully appropriate for medicinal uses and it does not constitute a "domino" step to harder drugs.Considering that Filson is vying for a seat that has historically been held by Republicans, this is a courageous statement and shows that he really cares about patients and understands the importance of this issue to Californians. Thanks to the work of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, all of the Democratic presidential candidates have also come out in support of medical marijuana, along with two of the Republican candidates, Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Tom Tancredo. It is clear that medical marijuana is becoming a more mainstream electoral issue. Soon it will be the job of advocates and patients to hold our elected officials to these statements.
Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Pres.) Ice Cold to wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patient - Americans for Safe AccessWow, take a look at Gov. Romney's cold dismissal of wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patient and muscular dystrophy sufferer Clayton Holton. Holton tries to explain to Gov. Romney that marijuana works for him in a way that other medicines have not. Gov. Romney's tired rejoinder is that Colton should ignore what his own body has told him and seek Marinol or addictive opiate-based pain medications, even though
"It makes me sick. I have tried it, and it makes me throw up," Holton said.Holton then asks the key question:
"Will you arrest me or my doctors if I get medical marijuana?"Romney brusquely states:
"I am not in favor of medical marijuana being legal in the country."and then coldly walks away, continuing to refuse to answer the question, even after several entreaties by the wheelchair-bound patient and others. Taking the Governor on his word, if he becomes President, he does in fact intend to raid, arrest and prosecute sick patients like Clayton Holton and throw them in jail for using marijuana to help ease debilitating ailments like muscular dystrophy. Traditional Media, including CNN, from whence the link came, pick this up, Romney absolutely will arrest the sick and dying. That's just sad. Gov. Romney, I urge you to look to your religious beliefs which you so often cite as inspiring you to public service, and try to find compassion in your heart. Even if you do not endeavor to change your stance on medical marijuana, you can still commit to ending the raids that put the sick and dying in jail. It's the compassionate thing to do.
New Documentary Illustrates the Need for and Benefit of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries - Americans for Safe AccessIn a time of increased federal raids and DEA attacks on patients and providers across California, it is important to have educational tools like the new documentary, "Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story," to illustrate the importance of understanding and protecting dispensaries as an integral part of safe access and the successful implementation of state law. According to the producers of this important documentary:
In the hour-long documentary "Dispensing Cannabis: The California Story," voices from inside discuss practices and issues involved in distributing medical cannabis. Of the twelve states in 2006 that permit medical cannabis use, California is the only state that allows for the distribution of the medicine. How and where do people get their medicine? How does one insure that their medicine is clean, safe and of sufficient quality? Tours of five cannabis dispensary models provide an unprecedented look into this quasi-legal business. Doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, patients and caregivers share their perspectives and concerns.The documentary is a finalist in the La Femme Film Festival and will screen on Thursday, October 11 at 10am at the Wilshire Screening Room, 8670 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills (cost is $10). The Director/Producer Ann Alter will be in attendance at the screening. The filmmakers are interested in holding additional screenings in the Los Angeles area between October 11 - 14. Contact distribution coordinator Ben Shaw at 707-496-9439 or email@example.com for details. A trailer for "Dispensing Cannabis" can be viewed here, and you can purchase a DVD by visiting the official "Dispensing Cannabis" website. For more information on medical cannabis dispensaries and to hear what public officials across the state have said about them, refer to ASA's report, "Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives and Local Regulation."
"After about an hour of sitting in the car while the police questioned some of the people and ran background checks on the four of us who were there and questioned me as well, the officer issued me a citation, citing me for battery. They informed me that they were not doing this because they had seen anything, but doing it because Mr. Chabot was pressing charges against me. They were very courteous the entire time and I suspect that they felt this was all a crock, but, if I understood them correctly, they had no choice but to arrest me because Mr. Chabot was adamant in filing charges... No matter what happens, the Chabots and their Drug Free Community Coalition better get used to seeing us if they are going to operate in the Inland Empire and continue their attacks on California's medical marijuana laws. Riverside County has made great strides especially in the light of where this county was five years ago. San Bernardino County is somewhat where Riverside County was five years ago but there are two cities, Claremont and Diamond Bar in SB County that allow dispensaries. We have come too far and achieved too much to let anyone stop us now. We will do what we can to see to it that patients in the Inland Empire continue to have access to sources of medicinal marijuana and that laws of the state of California are respected by all. "Read the Lanny Swerdlow's full report on ASA's Forums here. For more information on the event and the work MAPP is doing, contact Lanny at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To sign up to receive this weekly round up by e-mail, click here.
Chabot (the author) spends hundreds of words repeating misinformation about medical marijuana's medical efficacy, arguing that "Marinol is a medicine - smoked marijuana is not," flogging the "gateway drug" theory, and generally championing the party line of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. She forgets to use the goofy ONDCP tagline -- "Marijuana: harmless?" -- but otherwise sounds like she's writing a speech for John Walters to deliver to some provincial Rotary Club. The thing she seems to forget is that the train she's riding already left the station a long time ago in California, along with 11 other states.Apparently, even with all of the evidence, some dead-enders continue to deny that marijuana is medicine. So, I guess that's why we're here, to continue to educate so that when writers like Chabot spread misinformation like "Research has not demonstrated that smoked marijuana can be helpful as medicine," a chorus of voices cry out in protest. Letter to the Editor, anyone?
DEA Raids a Sacramento Dispensary and Attacks Oakland Edible Provider, Tainted, Inc.
This week, the DEA escalated their attacks on patients in California when agents raided the oldest running dispensary in Sacramento, River City Patients' Center and in a separate attack, Oakland-based medical marijuana edible manufacturer, Tainted, Inc.
Wednesday morning, federal agents showed up at River City Patient Center raiding the facility, detaining five employees, stealing medicine, seizing the collective's financial assets, and detaining the collective's operartor, William Pearce. The raid came after a supposed yearlong investigation into Pearce's collective. Pearce, a highly respected member of the medical marijuana community, and the five employees were released Wednesday evening. No arrests were made.
ASA's Sacramento Chapter and affiliates turned out over 100 protesters during the raid, showing their support for the collective. Read more about the raid in the Sac Bee, and read about ASA's response on our new blog.
The other attack on Wednesday was independent of the Sacramento raid. The DEA targeted medical marijuana edibles provider, Tainted, Inc. The paramilitary-style raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) involved five locations the DEA says are connected to Tainted, Inc., a well-known supplier of edible medical cannabis products available in dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. Heavily armed federal agents seized cannabis plants and medicinal edibles, arrested three people and shot an employee's dog.
Tainted, Inc. provides clearly labeled baked goods and other marijuana edibles to medical cannabis patients and collectives all over California. Edible cannabis products provide an alternative to smoking cannabis and are preferred by many patients. The products made by Tainted, Inc. are available only through medical cannabis dispensaries and carry prominent warning labels.
Tainted owner Michael Martin was out of town when the raids occurred and is expected to turn himself in to federal agents next week. Martin could face twenty years or more in federal prison for his role in supplying medical cannabis. Because federal law does not recognize medical uses for marijuana, if he goes to trial, Martin will not be allowed to tell jurors that his company supplied medical cannabis products through licensed dispensaries to qualified patients. Defense attorneys are prevented from raising state law, local regulations or the vast amount of medical cannabis science in federal marijuana trials.
Read ASA's full press release on the Tainted, Inc. raids.
The Medical Marijuana and HIV/AIDS Movement Mourn the Loss of Bay Area Activist, John Shaw
By ASA's Interim California Campaign Director, Don Duncan
I am very sad to learn that John Shaw, my friend and ally in the struggle for safe access, died yesterday in San Francisco. Many of you know John from his years of crusading and selfless volunteer work on behalf of medical cannabis and other HIV/AIDS patients. John's good spirits and positive attitude were always an inspiration. I remember how he brought so much enthusiasm to our first ASA outreach teams when he traveled to Los Angeles, never being daunted by the enormity of the task or the always-present opposition. He was always an empathetic friend and a joy to be around - someone who will long be missed by me and his many friends in the Bay Area and all over California.
I hope you will join me in expressing condolences to his family, loved ones, and friends. I have not yet heard word about services, but wanted to let the community know about this terrible loss. John Shaw at an ASA rally protesting a 2005 DEA raid.
Here is a link of John testifying in San Francisco earlier this month:
After clicking on this link, choose September 11th full Board meeting, then Jump to #19 in the 'Jump To' bar below the video screen. John appears at 51:15 in the video.
John's family is planning a memorial, and ASA will announce this when a date is chosen.
Thanks to ASA's Los Angeles Field Coordinator, Chris Fusco! You Will be Surely Missed
By ASA's Interim California Campaign Director, Don Duncan
I am sorry to report that Chris Fusco, our LA County Coordinator, will be leaving Americans for Safe Access this week. Chris has done an amazing job here in Los Angeles, helping to steer the campaign for safe access through some very turbulent times. He has helped shape the greatest expansion of safe access since Proposition 215 was adopted, and helped the community bear the brunt of the DEA's unprecedented pressure on patients and collectives.
I have watched Chris take initiative and show leadership as an ASA volunteer and as my personal assistant this year. With LA's moratorium finally in effect and the process of writing permanent regulations under way, Chris can move on knowing he has made a positive difference for this community.
His diligence and good nature will be missed. Let's all wish him well in his next endeavors and hope to see him again soon!
Call to the LA Office may be directed to (323) 882-6766 and emails may be sent to me at Don@SafeAccessNow.org
ASA vs. Alameda Elections Suit: Victory for Medical Marijuana Patients!
This past Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith ruled that the Alameda County Registrar of Voters and Alameda County, "have engaged in a pattern of withholding relevant evidence and failure to preserve evidence" necessary to conduct a recount of a hotly contested Berkeley ballot measure in 2004. As a result, the Court has voided the election and ordered the County to place Measure R back on the ballot for a re-vote at the next year in the general election. Judge Smith continued by saying Alameda County officials should pay attorneys' fees and reimburse a medical marijuana group more than $22,000 for the costs it incurred during a disputed recount shortly after the November 2004 election.The measure sought to end limits on the number of plants allowed to medical marijuana users and would have created a peer oversight committee for medical cannabis dispensaries in the city.
Americans for Safe Access and three other patients filed the lawsuit against Alameda County on December 30, 2004. The lawsuit challenges Alameda County's refusal to allow the public to examine copies of the Measure R electronic votes and system audit logs during the recount of the ballot initiative conducted on electronic voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems, Inc.
Read about the victory for Measure R and patients and providers in Alameda County in the San Francisco Chronicle.
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