The US Justice Department is at it again. DEA agents raided another California medical marijuana operation Wednesday, this one a highly publicized and easily visible outdoor grow covering more than 40 acres. DEA agents and Lake County sheriff's deputies seized 20,000 plants and arrested 13 people, including property owner and medical marijuana activist Eddy Lepp. He is charged under federal law with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Lepp maintains that the grow is legal under California law, and that he does not sell marijuana but grows it for other medical marijuana patients. And he isn't shy about it. The operation was clearly visible from nearby state Highway 20, according to local press reports, and was well known to local residents. Lepp and his garden had also been featured in High Times magazine, which touted the grow as "The World's Biggest Medi-Pot Garden" in its August issue.
DEA San Francisco office spokesman Richard Meyer was having none of that medical marijuana talk and he didn't care about California's Compassionate Use Act, which legalized medicinal use of the herb in the Golden State. "According to the United Constitution there is a supremacy clause, which says that in case of conflict federal law precedes state law," he told the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. "According to federal law, there is no such thing as medical marijuana. Marijuana is a dangerous drug that the United States Congress has classified as a Schedule One substance. A Schedule One substance doesn't have any accepted medical use in the United States and a high potential for abuse."
Lepp is no dope dealer, said his wife Linda Senti, who told the Press-Democrat the crop had 1,000 shareholders. "They're not his plants. Eddy and I had plants, but the other plants were patients' plants," Senti said. "They're going to suffer a lot. That was a year's supply of medication for them," Senti said.
This isn't Lepp's first run-in with the law over medical marijuana. The crusading activist was arrested in 1997 for growing 131 plants, but was found innocent, largely because he was a medical marijuana patient. In 2002, the DEA raided Lepp, seizing 350 plants, but he was never charged. He has filed suit against the DEA seeking return of his plants.
Medical marijuana supporters demonstrated in support of Lepp outside the federal courthouse Thursday. While prosecutors originally sought a $200,000 bond, Lepp was released on his own recognizance after his attorneys explained the nature of the case to the judge.