Medical Marijuana Patients, Advocates Protest Raids on SLO Delivery Services

San Luis Obispo County, CA -- Patients and medical marijuana advocates are planning a lively protest outside of the San Luis Obispo (SLO) County Superior Court to draw attention to the heavy-handed raids and arrests that took place the week of December 27th. During a 3-day period, as many as 50 Narcotics Task Force (NTF) officers from local and state law enforcement agencies raided 7 collectively-run medical marijuana delivery services, arresting 15 people on felony charges and held them on bails of up to $100,000. Several of those arrested were charged with child endangerment, after Child Protective Services (CPS) removed at least 6 children from the homes of 3 different families. The protest scheduled for Tuesday, January 11th at 8:00am will be followed by arraignments for some of the arrested delivery service operators.
What: Patients and advocates protest heavy-handed police actions against medical marijuana delivery services in SLO
When: Tuesday, January 11th at 8:00am
Where: The steps of San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, 1050 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo
Speakers include: Local physicians, delivery service providers, affected patients and Charles C. Lynch, a Morro Bay dispensary operator who was raided by the DEA in 2007
SLO County has seen an increase in medical marijuana delivery services -- up to 20 collectives by some estimates -- mainly as a result of local hostility toward the state's medical marijuana law. All of the incorporated cities in SLO have adopted moratoriums or outright bans against storefront medical marijuana dispensaries, forcing patients to use the illicit market or travel long distances to obtain their medicine. Delivery services, therefore, have served a critical need for area patients. The raided collectives included: Cannafornia Health Services out of Atascadero; Santa Barbara Collective out of Tarzana, in Los Angeles; Open Access Foundation, Trilogy Health Services and Harmonic Alliance out of Paso Robles; and Hopeful Remedies and West Coast Caregiving out of Pismo Beach.

"It's wasteful to spend taxpayer dollars to conduct SWAT-style raids on state law-compliant collectives," said Kris Hermes, media spokesperson with Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy organization. "But, it's a greater tragedy that local officials would resort to such aggressive tactics like taking people's children away because they don't agree with the state's medical marijuana law."

Those arrested reported that the police pointed guns at the suspects and their children, tore apart their homes, and kept some people handcuffed face-down on the ground, including a grandmother and two children, who were later hauled off by CPS after their parents were taken to jail. In addition to seizing medical marijuana, money, computers and other property, police have also frozen some bank accounts. According to attorneys, undercover police used legitimate and verifiable physician recommendations to deceptively obtain medical marijuana from the targeted delivery services.

SLO County Sheriff Pat Hedges worked with federal agents in 2007 to raid a licensed storefront dispensary in Morro Bay. The Morro Bay dispensary operator, Charles C. Lynch, after being denied a defense in federal court was convicted and sentenced to a year-and-a-day, but is currently appealing his conviction. Notably, Morro Bay residents rejected a ballot measure in the November 2010 election that would have banned storefront medical marijuana dispensaries, indicating that a majority of voters favor localized distribution in the city.

Coordinated police raids on medical marijuana delivery services occurred earlier in the year in the San Jose area, based on an interpretation of state law similarly held by local SLO law enforcement agencies, namely that everyone in a collective must participate in the cultivation and no money can exchange hands in the procurement of medical marijuana. "Now that we have stopped police from hiding behind federal law, hostile officials are stooping to flawed interpretations of state law and heavy-handed tactics to further undermine the effort of getting medicine to sick people," continued Hermes.

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