#379 California’s Medicinal Marijuana In The News

Date: Sat, 2 Aug 2008
Subject: #379 California’s Medicinal Marijuana In The News

CALIFORNIA’S MEDICINAL MARIJUANA IN THE NEWS

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #379 – Saturday, 2 August 2008

Today the Los Angeles Times printed a column about the latest Drug
Enforcement Administration raid of an area medicinal marijuana
dispensary. This follows Friday’s article about the raid MAP posted at
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v08.n745.a02.html

The country’s fourth largest circulation newspaper is always a worthy
target for letters to the editor. The newspaper provides instructions
for writing letters to the editor at http://drugsense.org/url/bc7El3Yo

The past week has also see three California Court of Appeals decisions
that impact California’s medicinal marijuana laws. Newspaper reports
have focused on various aspects of the decisions. The decisions are on
line at

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B196483.PDF

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D050333.PDF

http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/C056881.PDF

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Contact: http://drugsense.org/url/bc7El3Yo

Pubdate: Sat, 2 Aug 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Author: Sandy Banks

POT DISPENSARY RAIDS PUT TACTICS IN QUESTION

I don’t know what the flak-jacketed federal agents expected to find
during their commando-style raid Thursday on the Organica Collective,
a pot dispensary with such a mellow vibe that its business card
features a dove and a cross, and a promise to provide “the best
quality, price and selection of medical marijuana on the Westside.”

Drug Enforcement Administration agents cut open a safe and hauled off
boxes of records, a pair of flat screen monitors listing available
varieties of weed, and the contents of an ATM. The place was left a
mess, with receipts dumped on the floor and empty bottles and vials
scattered around.

And they frightened the customers and employees by storming in “in
full combat gear,” customer Clyde Carey told Times reporter Tami
Abdollah, “like literally an episode of ’24’ when they bust in on a
terrorist cell.”

One employee was so angry when he was uncuffed after four hours, he
likened the raid to being “robbed by a bunch of thugs downtown.” Then
he scrounged around and found a bud of marijuana the agents had
missed, stuffed it in a bong, took a puff and calmed down.

The feds didn’t say what made them target Organica, a warehouse
operation on a industrial stretch of Washington Boulevard, not far
from Venice Beach and across the street from Starbucks, the supplier
of choice for caffeine addicts. DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen told me
Friday that she can’t comment because the warrant is under seal.

Maybe it was the 74 strains of marijuana Organica lists for sale on
the giant flat screens in its lobby. Or the bongs scattered around its
“smoking lounge,” where customers can test the product. Or the outdoor
garden, where a few marijuana seedlings seem to have taken root among
the vegetables. Or that the business has been growing so fast, dozens
of new “patients” sign up each week.

Any of those would be red flags to me.

“I’m not sure what to make of it all right now,” Organica employee
Abby Boles told me on Friday by phone from Venice Beach. The
dispensary reopened for business, she said, but she was taking a day
off to recover.

Boles, 23, has worked at Organica for eight months. She was at the
counter Thursday weighing out a gram of Purple Kush for a customer
when the raid began.

“It’s been like a hidden sanctuary in the chaos of Los Angeles,” she
said. But now, “I’m leaning toward liking it less.”

She doesn’t know whether neighbors or others complained about the shop
or its operations.

“We haven’t had any robberies or crime problems,” she said. “Our
clientele is not sketchy people. . . . It’s cancer patients, hippie
types, people you wouldn’t expect to go in there. Business sort of
people. Our security guard isn’t even armed!”

She said the agents confiscated 50 pounds of marijuana.

“That’s $100,000 of inventory,” she said.

Boles asked what I thought was a logical question: Why, when medical
marijuana distribution is legal in California, did federal agents
burst in “and just take all of our stuff?”

It’s simple: Even though Californians voted to make marijuana
available to people with medical needs, federal law still makes it a
crime to grow, sell or smoke the weed. Two appellate court decisions
in California said federal laws don’t take priority, but that hasn’t
stopped federal authorities.

I’m sure there are some dispensaries that ought to be shut down. They
have made a cash cow out of the “compassionate use” decree and ignored
rules aimed at protecting teens. Last year, federal officials indicted
a dispensary owner who reportedly made more than $1.7 million in
marijuana sales a month, and a doctor accused of writing
recommendations for minors.

The feds aren’t going after patients or employees, but trying to put
the squeeze on growers and the owners of dispensaries, to blunt the
growth of California’s burgeoning marijuana industry.

I think an orderly crackdown is overdue. I’ve visited several
dispensaries and have seen too many healthy-looking young people go in
and out. But I’ve also heard from too many seriously ill patients who
lost safe sources of pain relief when their dispensaries were shut
down indiscriminately.

Compassion aside, is that any way to treat an industry that generates
$100 million in tax revenue each year, in a state so broke that some
government workers now make minimum wage?

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Additional suggestions for writing LTEs are at our Media Activism Center:

http://www.mapinc.org/resource/#guides

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Prepared by: The MAP Media Activism Team http://www.mapinc.org/resource

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