- California NORML Press Release Oct 10, 2003 -

DEA Raids Medical Marijuana Garden of L.A. Patient Sister Somayah

Los Angeles, Oct 8, 2003 - In a resumption of the federal government's war on medical marijuana, DEA agents raided the backyard garden of a well known Los Angeles patient advocate, Sister Somayah Kambui, who was acquitted in a high-profile Prop 215 jury trial last year.

Somayah, who uses marijuana to treat severe pain from sickle-cell anemia and runs a sickle-cell patients' group from her home, has been the target of repeated police raids by the LAPD despite her legal status under Prop. 215. This time, it was DEA agents who destroyed her garden, taking away a dozen robust plants nearly ready for harvest. No charges have been filed so far. "This is straight up piracy, thievery," declared Somayah, "we just want to be left in peace."

California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer denounced the raid as a "mean-spirited, gratuitous attack on a seriously ill woman who has been judged guiltless by her peers under California law." He charges that the raid was politically motivated. "Somayah's garden was peanuts by federal standards," he says, "Like other victims of DEA's medical marijuana raids, Somayah was targeted because she was a vocal, legal patient activist who was a thorn in the side of the law enforcement establishment."

Over the past two years, the DEA has repeatedly picked on high-profile medical cannabis patients and activists. Other targets have included Lynn and Judy Osburn and the directors of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, who are currently awaiting sentencing in federal court; Steve McWilliams of the Shelter from the Storm Collective in San Diego, whose conviction is currently under federal appeal; and Ann and Gary Barrett of San Bernardino County, who have fought a series of battles in state court. Over 40 legal medical marijuana patients and providers have been raided by federal agents: for a list, see

In recent days, California NORML has heard reports of other DEA raids on patient collectives in Northern California. So far, no charges have been filed. Observers believe that local police have been calling on the DEA to take down patients' gardens in order to circumvent state law. An LAPD narcotics officer is reported to have led the DEA to Somayah's garden.

Unsure of whether she will be criminally charged, Somayah is pondering her next step. Meanwhile, other patient advocates are challenging the DEA raids in federal court. In a case heard before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 7th, Angel Raich and Diane Monson are seeking a federal injunction to ban the DEA from taking their gardens. Another similar appeal by the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana and the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative was heard by the Ninth Circuit last month.

Gieringer denounced the Department of Justice for waging a "shameful and cowardly" attack on California's medical marijuana law. "The DEA is wasting more effort on medical marijuana patients than on major drug dealers or terrorists in California," he charges. "By attacking known, legitimate Prop. 215 patients, the DEA is only increasing the market for dangerous criminal dealers and smugglers."

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