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Drug Enforcement Agency “in a support role” in medical marijuana dispensary closures

September 9, 2009 - 3:02 pm

Amy Roderick, a spokesperson for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, says  the DEA is involved in the raids currently being conducted by the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department on medical marijuana dispensaries. She said DEA is involved “in a support role,” but she said she didn’t know if DEA agents were actually making arrests.

This comes as a bit of a surprise, given that in February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responded to a question at a press conference about whether raids on dispensaries would continue. From the Huffington Post:

“No,” [Holder] said. “What the president said during the campaign, you’ll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we’ll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy.”

CityBeat has calls out to other law-enforcement agencies to see who else is involved. So far, police departments in Chula Vista, Escondido and National City say they were not part of the operation.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. toobadcopsarethebadguys permalink
    September 9, 2009 - 7:09 pm 7:09 pm

    vista has been COVERED in cops today.
    makes sense.
    very sad.

  2. September 9, 2009 - 7:18 pm 7:18 pm

    ****EVERYBODY*****: WRITE, CALL, EMAIL PRESIDENT OBAMA NOW!!!! IT’S EASY, GO HERE:
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT/

    WE WILL NOT HAVE OUR FREEDOMS TAKEN AWAY ANYMORE AND OBAMA CAN FIX THIS EASILY ASAP.

    1) ASK HIM TO FIRE ERIC HOLDER FOR NOT FOLLOWING THE PRESIDENTS CAMPAIGN PROMISES AND WASTING MY HARD EARNED TAXES ON RAIDS WITH GUNS ON SICK PEOPLE.
    2) ASK HIM WHY FEDERAL FUNDS ARE BEING USED AGAINST HARMLESS PATIENTS.
    3) ASK HIM TO HELP BY CALLING SAN DIEGO LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SAN DIEGO DEA NOW!!!
    4) ASK HIM TO KEEP THE PROMISES HE MADE.
    5) ASK HIM TO HAVE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SUE THE SAN DIEGO LAW ENFORCEMENT FOR VIOLATING SEVERAL LAW IN THE RAIDS.
    6) COPY PASTE THIS MESSAGE AND POST IT IN EVERY BLOG ABOUT THE INCIDENTS THAT HAVE HAPPENED THIS WEEK.

    FINALLY, IF ANYONE IS A LAWYER, SUE THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO. MAKE SAN DIEGO BLEED MONEY IN THE COURTROOM SO IT CAN’T AFFORD TO DO MORE RAIDS.

    I HAVE TO GO NOW TO FIND ANOTHER COLLECTIVE.

    • September 10, 2009 - 1:38 am 1:38 am

      I’m with you! This is absolutely wrong! I’ve worked at 3 different dispensary / collectives and so far they have all be in the wrong! At the same time Obama’s “orders” not to waste time and resources are being ignored…Which has to be enforced by him. We have to make a stand. Bull$hit like this happens, and we’re all paying for it… UGH.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    September 9, 2009 - 8:44 pm 8:44 pm

    Is it legal to use a state issued warrant to enforce federal law? and contradict state law?

  4. is this legal? permalink
    September 9, 2009 - 8:45 pm 8:45 pm

    Is it legal to use a state issued warrant to enforce federal law? and contradict state law?

  5. dgaf permalink
    September 9, 2009 - 9:09 pm 9:09 pm

    obama doesnt give a F… about you, or me.. or anyone else in this country for that matter so thats not going to work

  6. geoff permalink
    September 10, 2009 - 9:26 am 9:26 am

    Obama is just another empty suit in Washington. No matter how much you guys rode his jock strap during his campaign, he is just another career politician. This wasnt something Obama knew about though so dont make it sound like “OBAMA IS A LIER”!! Its that diesel dyke bitch of a DA we have in san diego. She can get feds here to do whatever the fuck she wants!! Her name is Bonnie Dumanis, a lesbian from Hillcrest i believe. She is to thank for this for sure.!!!

  7. Responsible Reformer permalink
    September 10, 2009 - 6:19 pm 6:19 pm

    Before anyone flames me, I would like to say that I am PRO medical marijuana and PRO marijuana reform, and have been an activist for these topics since 1994.

    However, it’s hard to say here that Eric Holder has violated the President’s promise, or that the DEA is overreaching it’s authority.

    The US Attorney General has stated that the DEA will not be involved in medical marijuana raids unless the dispensary in question violates BOTH Federal and local law. In other words, the Feds have deferred this issue to the local legislature. BUT, if the local laws are broken, the Feds have reserved the right to get involved as well.

    The present raids in San Diego, to the best of my knowledge, involve dispensaries that are in violation of local laws. These raids were conducted by local law enforcement — the SD Police and Sheriff — with DEA tagging along.

    I believe Obama has kept his promise here, based on the situation as presented.

    There are more than 60 dispensaries operating in the San Diego area. Only NINE of them are licensed. Further, California law does not allow dispensaries to run “for profit” and of course, does not allow dispensaries to sell to non-patients.

    I don’t know yet who has been charged with what, but my instinct tells me that the issues are these — unlicensed dispensaries, and/or selling for profit, and/or selling to non-patients. If that is indeed the case, all bets are off. The DEA, as well as local law enforcement, can and probably will prosecute violators. This is consistent with Eric Holder’s statement, and President Obama’s promise.

    The people you should be writing, protesting and angry with are the local legislators, not the Feds. In addition to the California State laws, more and more municipalities (like San Diego) are enacting legislation making it more and more difficult to run a lawful dispensary.

    Again, let me be clear — I am PRO medical marijuana. I am not entirely happy with these raids, either. BUT, I also hope that the true problem at hand isn’t lost in a bunch of knee-jerk angry reactions against Obama and the DEA. Things need to change on the Federal level too, no doubt — a re-scheduling of marijuana OFF of “Schedule I” (‘no medicinal purpose?’) to a lower schedule would be a step in the right direction. I have been fighting that battle for 14 years now. Nevertheless, I am happy to see some very tiny steps in the right direction at the Federal level. Right now, I think the biggest problem in San Diego and elsewhere in California is coming from the local level.

    Don’t get angry with the law enforcement agencies, or the prosecutors, for enforcing the law. Get angry with the local politicians who are making it harder and harder for patients to get their medicine, and for dispensaries to operate lawfully, by enacting local laws making it difficult for medical marijuana clinics to operate in their cities and counties.

    • hollywoodsauce permalink
      November 15, 2009 - 10:58 am 10:58 am

      and you are….Carmen Trutanich? you know alittle too much about the issue. And by the way, you are not PRO medical Marijuana, but a drone to outdated laws, obviously. From what I can tell, you ARE law enforcement…

  8. Postmaster permalink
    September 12, 2009 - 11:40 am 11:40 am

    What you are saying is correct, but dont you find it irronic that the local law and politicians are basically creating a highway for the feds to come down with an iron fist. The state of Cali has already directed San Diego County to get with the program. for them to continuoesly make it harder to even open one, muchless a legal one, is absurd. I feel this is a collaberative effort from both CA politicians, SD County Law, and the Feds. It takes all 3 of them for Tuesday to go down, so why is anyone so sure that one is not responsible and the other is? Why cant all of the contributing parties be equally as corrupt? to me all 3 of the parties that played a key role in this outrage are equally resonsible for the end result. I feel a sthough this is almost another form of social terrorism. Only difference is Bonnie, unlike the President, didnt crash planes into buildings and blaming it on terrorists. either way you slice it…it is steam roling the american people with one goal in mind….getting the general public to sucum and bend to one’s will, and ultimately believe to be true what is being cramed down their throats.

    shocking and jaw droping!

  9. Responsible Reformer permalink
    September 12, 2009 - 12:25 pm 12:25 pm

    @ Postmaster:

    I wasn’t aware that the State of of Cali has “directed San Diego County to get with the program.” The State has allowed Medical Marijuana, with certain guidelines and restrictions. But the State isn’t ordering anybody to “get with the program.” There is absolutely nothing to prevent a City or County from banning Medical MJ in their jurisdiction, despite the fact that it’s legal in the State. One problem here is that medical MJ has been approved in California since 1996, and it seems like only recently have some communities decided to rally against it locally — if places like San Diego County had imposed restrictions from day 1, it would have been easier to enforce.

    It’s a lot like communities that ban alcohol, or adult book stores. It may be legal in the State, but a town can certainly say “not in our community, no thank you.”

    So no, I don’t think the State of California is complicit in this at all. And the Feds are only doing what they said they would do — that they would only prosecute clinics that do not comply with local and State laws.

    I have a client/friend who recently opened a dispensary in Colorado, and they are facing much the same problem. Colorado approved medical MJ in 2000, but now, many towns are reacting against the proliferation of dispensaries popping up all over. Many of them are passing local legislation banning dispensaries in the community, or moratoriums against any future dispensaries opening. Some communities are coming up with their own registration guidelines for dispensaries. It’s a sticky situation there, as here, because you can’t pass an “Ex Post Facto” law — you cannot pass a law that retroactively punishes people for conduct that was lawful when they did it. So, by addressing this 9 years after medical MJ was approved, these communities are also having to deal with dispensaries that have already been in operation. Same thing in Cali.

    Another issue in Colorado is that the State is absolutely, 100% silent on the treatment of, licensing, or regulation of dispensaries. No guidelines at all. If your community in CO has not already banned it, anybody with a sales tax license can open up a shop and sell to patients. Which honestly, was pretty shortsighted and foolish of the Colorado legislature.

    There was a really good article in Fortune magazine the other day, I’ll paste the link below. Long, but a good read. I was surprised that a mainstream financial news magazine like Fortune actually printed a truly “fair and balanced” article about marijuana reform. The article recognizes that the Federal treatment of marijuana as having “no medicinal purpose” has become a position which cannot be defended. The author points out that we are at a crossroads in America now, and the direction we turn is largely dependent upon how well State and local government can effectively control medical dispensaries, and how professionally these dispensaries operate.

    Personally, I am always a little saddened to see medical dispensaries that are replete with rasta colors, incense burning, Pot leafs and Cheech & Chong posters on the wall, Bob Marley music playing, products displayed like candy in a candy store, etc. It only reinforces the fears of marijuana haters that these dispensaries are just “fronts” for a bunch of pothead stoners who embrace marijuana as a recreational choice. I advised my friend in Colorado, and I would give the same advice to anyone, that in order to be taken seriously, for the benefit of the whole movement, professionalism is key. The place should be as clean-cut and legit looking as a dentist’s office, not looking like a head shop run by hippies.

    Again, don’t get me wrong — I like hippies (and head shops, LOL) but much of America does not. The legal MJ dispensary movement is going to have to reach for a higher level of professional appearance and operation if they want to be taken seriously as medical clinics. If they can do that, there is a very good chance in the next couple of years that the general tide of public opinion will turn in America in favor of medical MJ, and the Federal government will reschedule marijuana. That’s what I am hoping for. Right now, the Feds have only offered a wee little opportunity — a spoken promise to lay off legally operating dispensaries. But they have not changed any laws, or made medical MJ legal. Just given us a tiny opportunity — and what we do with that opportunity is the key to the future of medical MJ in this country. The Feds could announce a change in position tomorrow, and there is not much anyone could do about it. I am hopeful that we won’t give them a reason to, that the community at large can demonstrate that it does hold itself to a high level of lawful responsibility.

    Here is that article: http://money.cnn.com/2009/09/11/magazines/fortune/medical_marijuana_legalizing.fortune/?postversion=2009091116

    Note that it’s called “How Marijuana Became Legal” – it isn’t legal yet, per se — I think the title is mostly aspirational / instructional / predictive — like if Popular Science magazine had published an article in 1965 called “How America Went To The Moon”

    • Postmaster permalink
      September 12, 2009 - 7:55 pm 7:55 pm

      Check this out…
      http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/140111
      check about 3-5 paragraphs down..

      The only thing I can say is that ASA gave 10 counties legal notice of obligation after the courts decision.

      “The courts have made clear that federal law does not preempt California’s medical marijuana law and that local officials must comply with that law,” said Joe Elford……”

      • Postmaster permalink
        September 12, 2009 - 7:57 pm 7:57 pm

        and though a town can put a ban on it for now, ue to the ability to place a moritorium, but see how long that lasts. Thats justgoing to trigger more class actions. any town or city that has a pharmacy in a Save-On is gonna have a hard time proving how that medicine is any different than ours.

  10. Responsible Reformer permalink
    September 13, 2009 - 11:30 am 11:30 am

    @ Postmaster — thanks for that link. It’s true that local officials must comply with State law, they cannot enforce Federal law themselves. I think that’s why the DEA was “in a support role” in these recent busts.

    As for the issuance of patient ID cards, you are absolutely correct, and so is ASA — the pertinent language in SB 420 reads “Every county health department, or the county’s designee, SHALL do all of the following: . . . (5) Issue identification cards developed by the department to
    approved applicants and designated primary caregivers.”

    Emphasis added on “Shall” — it doesn’t say “May Issue” it says “Shall Issue.” So these holdout counties are definitely in violation of State law when it comes to refusing to issue cards. In that regard, the State has indeed ordered the County to “get with the program” and I apologize for any confusion caused by my earlier comment. I was thinking of the dispensary issue, not the issuance of the cards themselves.

    There still is a issue with the operation of dispensaries, though — a County must issue the cards, but I don’t think the law clearly states that they must allow dispensaries. Which creates a bit of a catch-22. On the County level, if the whole County were to try to ban dispensaries, you could argue that this is incongruous with the requirement to issue ID Cards, and imposes an undue hardship on those patients who have cards, but nowhere to go. At the municipal level, an individual City could certainly ban dispensaries, but you are correct that this is only going to provoke a lengthy battle in the courts.

    I am still hopeful that somehow, the politicians and patients can learn to work together and find some middle ground. In Colorado, for example, most of the cities that have enacted moratoriums have done so for a specified limited time, until the City officials can figure out what to do. The ones I am familiar with don’t seem to be pushing for a total ban, permanently, they just want to pass some restrictions regarding zoning and location for these dispensaries, proximity to schools, operating hours, etc.

    It’s a mess. A lot of good people in Cali have been fighting this battle on behalf of patients and dispensaries for a very long time, and I know they are not going to back down. Good for them, I truly applaud the efforts of ASA and others. I think it’s going to take some time to sort these issues out, but I have faith that there will come a day when the rights of patients in Cali are unambiguous and respected.

    • Inflorescence permalink
      September 13, 2009 - 12:46 pm 12:46 pm

      “On the County level, if the whole County were to try to ban dispensaries, you could argue that this is incongruous with the requirement to issue ID Cards, and imposes an undue hardship on those patients who have cards, but nowhere to go.”

      No, it would not provide a hardship if the patients merely formed a collective and participated in the growing of their own herb with the help of others in the same collective.

      Bonnie and even Jerry Sanders have said they will allow this type of collective, but lets face it, that would be hard work for all involved and that’s why most of these for profit dispensaries opened because they don’t want to work hard for no profit, they’d rather take the easy convenient way and skirt the law.

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