Federal prosecutors have moved to seize the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center (LACRC) using federal asset forfeiture provisions. The LACRC, which was famous for working closely with state and local officials and for its scrupulous adherence to California's medical marijuana law, was raided by the DEA last October, when armed agents seized patient records and medical marijuana being grown at the center. In a forfeiture action filed May 31 in US District Court in Los Angeles, federal prosecutors argued that Proposition 215, the ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana in California, was invalidated by federal law and did not provide a defense against asset forfeiture proceedings under federal law.
In the complaint, federal prosecutors said 1,000 plants were seized and that the LACRC did $20,000 in business each week. The club had 930 active members at the time of closing, an LACRC staffer told DRCNet.
At the initial press conference on Wednesday, LACRC executive director Scott Imler, patient Mary Lucey and others charged that the Justice Department and DEA are violating states' rights by challenging California's popularly-approved medical marijuana law. They also accused the government of "harassing" medical marijuana patients and dispensaries, and they vowed to fight back. Since Wednesday, medical marijuana patients belonging to the club and their supporters have embarked on a rolling hunger strike and encampment to protest federal harassment of the LACRC. A small group of protesters is fasting until Sunday, when they will be relieved by another group, AIDS sufferer and LACRC client Lucey told DRCNet.
"We're on a fast now to protest the federal government's interference in California's medical marijuana law," said Lucey, who is patient #001 at the LACRC. "Our goal is to get the federal government to back off, and to get our government officials here in California off their butts and doing what the people told them to do, which is implement and protect Prop. 215," she added.
"We will go until Sunday, then have a potluck dinner to break the fast while a new crew takes their turn," said Lucey. "We will continue indefinitely. We also have guest hunger strikers who come for a day, such as West Hollywood city council member Howard Jacobs," she said. There are also daily press conferences, Lucey added, and a rally scheduled for Sunday.
The LACRC and its executive director Scott Imler have built a good working relationship with the city. Now West Hollywood has even more reason to be concerned: The city authorized a $350,000 loan to help the LACRC purchase its property on Santa Monica Boulevard; it stands to lose that money if the feds prevail.
Lucey, for one, is angry enough to undergo the fast despite her illness. "My first reaction is selfish fear, the fear of dying," she said. "Then there is a great sadness, because it's not just me, there are thousands of others affected by this. And then there is a lot of anger," Lucey added. "The thought of making disabled people interact with criminals in alleys to get their medicine... I just feel sheer anger. I don't understand why people aren't just having a fit that the federal government has trampled all over the will of the voters and the California constitution," she said.
The LACRC and its supporters will not limit their defense to press conferences and hunger strikes, said Lucey. The LACRC will fight the move in federal court, Lucey said. "If there is a good side legally, it's that they will have to win their case before a California jury. Good luck," she snorted. And there is talk of a possible civil action against the federal government for violating their civil rights and for wrongful death if any of the hunger strikers die, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Meanwhile, Lucey and four others are subsisting on water, juice and a little milk "so we can take the AIDS medicine" until the feds drop the forfeiture action, she vowed.