San Diego Cracks Down on Dispensaries with DEA Help

September 11 - SWAT-style raids on 14 medical marijuana outlets in the San Diego area on September 9 resulted in 31 arrests, including a man in a wheelchair who was wrestled into a police car. The action was the result of a four-month investigation by the San Diego district attorney's office, which claims the collectives were operating for profit in violation of the Attorney General's guidelines.

The raids came the day after the San Diego Board of Supervisors voted to convene a task force on medical marijuana, and weeks after the county finally began issuing medical marijuana I.D. cards to patients and caregivers, after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by the county against the state program.

Patients on-site at the raids were detained and handcuffed, and one wheelchair bound collective member was dragged into a police car.

The US DEA was present at some of the raids, and federal charges have reportedly been filed against two people, which means 5-10 year mandatory minimum sentences are possible even for small players. Other than a raid at a San Francisco collective in March, one in Los Angeles in August, and a Lake County case that originated in 2005, these are the first raids since Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder announced that his administration would not prioritize medical marijuana cases. Medical marijuana collectives have proliferated since that announcement.

Oakland, CA was the first in the nation to vote in an extra sales tax for medical marijuana outlets in July, when the state Board of Equalization issued a report estimating legalization would net the state $1.38 billion in yearly tax revenues. The City Councils of Los Angeles and Sacramento are both considering.

"Where other cities are profiting from medical cannabis business, San Diego is wasting taxpayers' money on criminal arrests and prosecution," said California NORML director Dale Gieringer.

The closed collectives are:

Answerdam Rx, 6645 Convoy Court, San Diego

Beneficial Care Collective, 740 Broadway, San Diego

Green Kross Collective, 3415 Mission Blvd., San Diego

Green Tree Solutions, 8055 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego

The Healing Dragon, 2506 S. Santa Fe Ave. #B-8, Vista

Hillcrest Compassion Care, 1295 University Ave., San Diego

Medicinal Solutions Patient Collective, 861 Hornblend St., San Diego

Movement in Action, 1050 S. Santa Fe Ave., Vista

Nature's Rx, 3520 Ashford St., Suite E, San Diego

Pacific Beach Collective, 929 Turquoise St., San Diego

San Diego Discount Caregivers, 3152 University Ave., San Diego

San Diego Dispensary Services, 1232 Los Vallecitos Blvd., San Marcos

Top Quality Collective, 7933 Balboa Ave., San Diego

Total Herbal Care, 4667 1/2 Cass St., San Diego

San Diego has long been the most hostile region of the state against marijuana. A sting operation with undercover officers posing as patients nabbed Eugene Davidovich and others on state charges in continuing court actions. The region has also cracked down on paraphernalia shops.

San Diego District Attorney Press Release

The legal basis for the DA's claims are unclear. She states that the AG's guidelines require "acquiring marijuana only from their members". However there is nothing in state (or federal) law restricting acquisition or purchase of marijuana by anyone; the law only prohibits illicit possession, and under Prop. 215 patients and caregivers are legally entitled to possess. The DA also states that "The law does not allow a patient's 'primary caregiver' to be a 'dispensary'." While this is true, it is also true that the law allows legal patient "collectives" and "cooperatives" to operate dispensaries.

Even if some of the targeted dispensaries were illegally organized as "primary caregivers" rather than collectives, "this doesn't justify the DA's strongarm tactics in sending in armed cops unannounced to raid, arrest and terrorize personnel and vandalize the premises," said Gieringer. Perversely, police ripped out security cameras, even though one of their big supposed problems with cannabis dispensaries is lack of adequate security.

Patti Walker, a medical marijuana patient at Beneficial Care Collective in downtown San Diego said an officer pointed a shotgun at her face before she was handcuffed, arrested and taken to county jail, where she was "treated like a filthy mutt." The 20-year-old college student at SDSU said she volunteers at animal shelters and senior homes regularly, and aspires to join the Peace Corps after graduation. "I've had people cry on my shoulder about the pain and suffering they went through everyday of their lives and how grateful they were to have a place like our collective to go to," Walker wrote in an email. "I helped people with AIDS, cancer, depression, etc. who didn't want to poison themselves with pills and chemicals, people whose lives were changed by the use of medical marijuana and there I sat in a jail cell all night for a victimless crime." Walker said she and her fellow workers are all being charged with felony sale of MJ.

Other San Diego news:

The city of San Diego has stopped issuing medical marijuana dispensary
permits.

Court Rules in San Diego Medical Marijuana Case: Dismissal Denied
Donna Lambert's Trial Set for October