Medical Marijuana Advocates Decry DEA Raid in San Francisco

San Francisco, CA -- Advocates are protesting a federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raid yesterday on a San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary, and are urging the Obama Administration to implement its policy change aimed at ending the previous Administrations' tactics of conducting such raids. Yesterday afternoon federal agents stormed Emmalyn's, a medical marijuana facility licensed by the City of San Francisco, seizing an unknown amount of marijuana, money and other property, but made no arrests. The DEA raid comes only one week after U.S. Attorney Eric Holder clarified the Obama Administration "new American policy" on medical marijuana.

Evidence used to justify yesterday's DEA raid is currently sealed and not available to the public. However, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today that a source in the city government said the raid may have been based on a state sales tax violation. "There is no evidence that I'm aware of that my client is in violation of state or local law, or is errant in paying sales tax to the state," said Emmalyn's attorney, Terence Hallinan, who is also the former District Attorney of San Francisco. "This is a slap to President Obama's face by DEA in light of his new federal policy on medical marijuana."

"Any violations of California's medical marijuana law should be the purview of local and state officials," said Kris Hermes, spokesperson with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a national advocacy group working with the Obama Administration to develop a sensible and comprehensive policy change with regard to medical marijuana. "Medical marijuana patients and providers deserve a chance to defend themselves under state and local law, which is not possible once the federal government gets involved." The California Board of Equalization typically enforces sales tax violations that occur in the state.

Emmalyn's was in operation prior to San Francisco's development of an ordinance regulating such facilities in 2006, and had been providing medical marijuana to thousands of patients in the city without incident. San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, in whose district Emmalyn's operated, made a statement yesterday in response to the raids. "I support safe and adequate access for all patients in the city," said Supervisor Daly. "As such, I Condemn any force which is used to disrupt or prevent patients from accessing their medicine."

In 2008, the California Attorney General Jerry Brown issued guidelines recognizing the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries under state law, and providing recommendation for their compliance with those laws. However, in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gonzales v. Raich, that the government had the discretion to enforce federal marijuana laws even in medical marijuana states. "Of course the federal government has the authority to raid dispensaries in California," said Caren Woodson, ASA's Government Affairs Director in Washington, D.C. "The question is why does it have to exercise that discretion, especially in light of the Obama Administration's commitment to reverse that practice." Since the Raich decision, more than 150 raids have occurred in California, mostly during the Bush Administration.

For further information:
Video footage of yesterday's DEA raid:
White House statement on ending federal enforcement:
CA Attorney General Guidelines issued in August 2008:

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