Genesis of the 6th Street Raid: Business as Usual for the DEA, Plus Help from Within 2/15/02

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Rather than being a sign of a new escalation in the federal government's war on medical marijuana in California, this week's bust of the 6th Street Harm Reduction Center and four people was the result of two factors, according to movement sources. On one hand, a DEA investigation into medical marijuana smuggling between British Columbia and the Bay Area eventually led to the center. On the other hand, a letter written to the DEA in December by a prominent member of the Bay Area medical marijuana community and provided to defense attorneys accused the center of making money from selling marijuana and asked the DEA to investigate.

"Judas was Jesus' disciple before he became his betrayer," said a California cannabis expert who spoke on condition of confidentiality. "One of the directors of a buyers' club wrote a letter snitching them out, saying their intentions were not pure," he told DRCNet. "He denounced the club, saying they were making money. The letter arrived in December, and the dates of the charges specified in the arrest warrants were from December through February. The buyers' club had been around for years, but all the charges coincide with the arrival of the letter."

The source refused to name names, but told DRCNet the letter writer "is an important person in the movement, a prominent local figure." And, according to the source, the highly-placed snitch not only wrote to the DEA, but reiterated his accusations in a sit-down interview with the agency.

Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML, confirmed to DRCNet that the letter had been written, but he also declined to name names early Thursday. "The name will come out soon enough," said Gieringer. "This is really scandalous."

DRCNet has learned independently that the letter writer was Father Nazarene of the San Martin de Porres cannabis dispensary in San Francisco. A person who answered the phone at the dispensary but declined to give his name had only two terse "no comments" when queried by DRCNet about reaction to the raids and whether Father Nazarene had indeed complained to the DEA about the 6th Street Harm Reduction Center.

Gieringer had changed his mind by Thursday evening, confirming to DRCNet that Father Nazarene had indeed ratted on the club. Gieringer read from a copy of a government synopsis of its contacts with Nazarene, made available to defense attorney. "Father Nazarene said there are medical marijuana dispensaries that are owned and operated by greedy drug dealers who hide behind the shield of Proposition 215," read Gieringer. "Watts, who owns one-third of the 6th Street clinic, had recently been arrested on drug charges, including marijuana, and he had sublet the basement to Ed Rosenthal to cultivate marijuana for sale," Nazarene told the narcs.

"This is a real shocker," said Gieringer. "Father Nazarene was a trusted figure among all the medical marijuana dispensers. They held confidential private meetings at San Martin, and here is Father Nazarene spouting off to the feds. Ed Rosenthal had known and trusted Father Nazarene for 10 years. He thought he was perfectly trustworthy, and now this."

According to Gieringer, while the letter of complaint played a role in the busts, it was not the precipitating factor. "While it may have been a calculated insult that this happened the same day Asa Hutchinson came to town, it was business as usual for the DEA," he said. "This was a narrowly focused raid on a particular club that got caught up in a DEA investigation. The DEA, following standard investigative procedures, started with leads developed in a major British Columbia to San Francisco medical marijuana smuggling operation and ended up with the 6th Street center," Gieringer explained.

"The letter came during the investigation; the letter did not cause the investigation," Gieringer said. "But," Gieringer added, "it is still scandalous, and it is important to note that the people arrested were not involved in the smuggling, but were local cultivators providing medicine to patients."

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Issue #224, 2/15/02 Feds Raid San Francisco Medical Marijuana Operations, City Officials Join Angry Protests as DEA Head Speaks Same Day | Genesis of the 6th Street Raid: Business as Usual for the DEA, Plus Help from Within | Philippines Proposes Death Sentence for Ecstasy, LSD Possession | Jamaica: Ganja Decrim Goes to Parliament | Half of Governor Johnson's Drug Reform Package Passes as Brief New Mexico Legislative Session Ends | Bolivian Government Signs Agreement With Coca Growers | Flood of Caribbean Drug Mules Overwhelming European Authorities | Marco Pannella Acquitted on Hashish Civil Disobedience Charge | Alerts: HEA, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, Virginia | The Reformer's Calendar

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