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Feature: DEA Makes Major Move Against Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #469)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided 11 Los Angeles County medical marijuana dispensaries Wednesday, including five in the city of West Hollywood, where supportive officials have been working with store owners to responsibly regulate their operations. The raids mark a departure from recent DEA actions in the state, which for the most part this year have targeted dispensaries in areas where local officials are unsupportive of or even hostile to medical marijuana.

DEA agents dressed in SWAT-style attire seized several thousand pounds of processed marijuana, bagsful of cash, guns, and hundreds of marijuana plants. Agents detained 20 people, but none have so far been charged with any crime. It was the largest DEA swoop in the county in recent memory.

The DEA raiders were greeted yesterday by dozens of protestors chanting "DEA Go Away" and "States' Rights" along Santa Monica Boulevard, where four of the raided dispensaries sit in a five-block stretch. Thursday morning, about 100 people gathered at West Hollywood city hall to protest the assault on the state's medical marijuana law.

DEA post-raid publicity photo
California voters approved the use of medical marijuana in a 1996 initiative, but the federal government has never accepted that law. Wednesday's raids were only the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle that has seen dozens dispensaries raided this year. Unlike raids in places like Modesto, Riverside County, and San Diego, where recalcitrant local law enforcement worked hand in glove with the feds, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department did not participate, except to provide crowd control for anticipated expressions of public displeasure, and was not even informed of the raids until shortly before they took place.

"It's outrageous that we have a situation where the voters have spoken, the legislature has spoken, the courts have affirmed it, local officials are regulating it, and then the DEA comes in and says 'we know better,'" said William Dolphin, communications director for the medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access, which helped organize the Wednesday and Thursday protests. "This is not how a democracy is supposed to work, and it is a terrible problem for patients. They say they aren't targeting patients, but they're doing everything they can to shut off their access to their medicine, and they're taking a page from the terrorists' handbook by simultaneously hitting a bunch of places to create an atmosphere of pervasive fear."

Medical marijuana activists were not the only people upset by the raids. The West Hollywood city council, which supports the state's medical marijuana law, had only the night before introduced an ordinance establishing permanent regulations for the dispensaries. It was thus little surprise that council members reacted testily.

"The state of California voted to allow marijuana for medical purposes," said West Hollywood city council member Abbe Land. "The City of West Hollywood along with other cities across the state have established regulations to govern the dispensing of medical marijuana, so that people whose lives depend on this drug can be assured of safe access to their medicine. The DEA should spend their time going after dispensaries that are not operating in accordance with local ordinances, as well as unscrupulous doctors who write illegitimate prescriptions," she continued.

"Today's actions again demonstrate the skewed priorities of the Bush administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration," said West Hollywood City Council Member Jeffrey Prang. "Providing safe access to medical marijuana for those living with serious and often painful illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and other terminal diseases is something this city supports. We have worked closely with our community to insure these establishments operate safely and comply with the spirit of Proposition 215 adopted by the voters of California."

The DEA couldn't care less. For the agency, marijuana is illegal, period. For the feds, the raids are not about stopping people from getting their medicine, but about crime, or at least so they say. "Today's enforcement operations show that these establishments are nothing more than drug trafficking organizations bringing criminal activities to our neighborhoods and drugs near our children and schools," crowed DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Ralph Partridge, as the agency displayed seized cash, candy bars, and cannabis.

"We're here to enforce the drug laws," DEA Los Angeles spokeswoman Special Agent Sarah Pullen told Drug War Chronicle Thursday. "Those were marijuana distribution centers, and the cultivation, possession, and distribution of marijuana in any form is a crime under federal law. Obviously there is a drug problem out here and there are many different types of drugs. We're working many different kinds of cases, and these raids are just one of them. We're doing our best to enforce the law."

"You certainly have to wonder if these guys don't have anything better to do," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "They raided several places in West Hollywood, a city which is working very hard to regulate its dispensaries to ensure that they're operating properly. The DEA cannot reasonably argue that these were runaway dispensaries; they went after some of the most carefully regulated dispensaries in the state," he told the Chronicle.

"This is yet one more example of the federal government's priorities being out of whack with any respect for federalism and state's rights, let alone human decency," Mirken said. "One can only hope this will give new impetus to efforts in Congress to rein them in," he said, referring to what was known in previous years as the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would bar the use of federal funds for raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal.

"That's the only good side to this," said ASA's Dolphin. "Speaker Pelosi is an outspoken defender of medical marijuana access for patients, and we have a large number of new Democrats in the House, along with some Republicans like Rohrabacher. With this new Congress, we're much closer to passing something like Hinchey-Rohrabacher. And we will definitely see much more pressure for the DEA to provide some accountability."

When asked whether the agency might be setting itself up to lose funding for raids against medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal, the DEA's Pullen deferred to Washington. "That's a question for the director," she said. "We're just here to enforce the law." A Chronicle call to DEA director Karen Tandy's office has so far gone unreturned.

With the Justice Department and the DEA feeling emboldened since last year's Supreme Court decision in Raich, it may be that the only way to bring an end to the raids is to adopt a tactic increasingly bruited about in discussions of ending the war in Iraq: Cut off the funds.

Advocates will demonstrate against the DEA raid on Monday, January 22, noon, at 255 East Temple Street in Los Angeles, and a planning meeting will take place the preceding Saturday. Visit for further information or to download a master copy of the event flyer. Visit for info on supporting events happening nationwide.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alcohol and tobacco are two of the worst drugs in the world yet they are legal.
You can Recreate with alcohol or tobacco, but you can't Medicate with pot. This doesn't make sense.

Yes Pot is a mind altering drug but alcohol is much worse.

A drunk cannot drive safely. Alcohol makes a lot of people Obnoxious, Belligerant and Violent. Most Domestic Violence, Crime and car accidents are caused by people on alcohol.

Pot helps me think deeper and more creatively. It helps me to focus. It's like my mind gets on a railroad track. Yes, you may catch me starring, or zoning out but it only means that I'm on a long train of thought.

In our Constitution it says that we can persue "happiness". Well I hate to say it....but recreating with drugs can lead to temporary happiness. This is just a cold hard fact. This is why so many people use drugs of all kinds and this is why there is such a huge market for it here in America.

I do not advocate the use of any drug, because 99.99% of them are addicting and life changing. I only say that if a person chooses to use a drug, please be RATIONAL, POSITIVE and maybe CREATIVE in your use.

I do not use anything but pot, but I do understand that with Rational, Positive and Creative use any drug probably has it's positive uses.

Rationalman : )

Sat, 01/20/2007 - 1:22pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

shut up quit talking out your asses get rid of beer before medical weed see whats destroying are fucking society idiots just cause ur cops u ain't smart bitch !!!!

Fri, 05/16/2008 - 4:06am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Enforce the right laws. If you want to use your tactical outfits , then go after the meth labs , because they are the dangerous ones. You could start investigating the affluent areas where the teenagers get prescription drugs from their parents medicine cabinet. Remember, alcohol was illegal until the gov got their tax. Liquor kills people and makes you do violent things....and they still advertise for it. Imagine how many agents would have a fit , if liquor was deemed illegal today. Why not go to the border and protect the U.S from the country that exports its products. God Bless America.

Fri, 02/06/2009 - 10:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Governments #1 job is to protect our God given rights, according to the Declaration of Independance. Where did we go wrong and how many lives will be ruined before people wake up? Those who make peaceful resolution impossible demand violent revolution.

Fri, 01/19/2007 - 3:33pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Take some time to read the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence; see it you can find the word "Democracy" in any of those documents.

Our pundit self serving politicians have no idea that we are a “Constitutional Republic” with absolute rights.

However thanks to government schools we are a nation of idiots or imbeciles.

Now you know why we have drug laws. It’s to protect the children.

Wed, 01/24/2007 - 2:16pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

This is message is for Karen Tandy even though I know she'll never have the displeasure of hearing it directly...."You Suck and I hope You develop a rare condition that is only relieved by something as "trivial" as medical cannabis, You Loser!" and to every other person working at/ with the DEA "You people blow and Your lame intentions are so obvious. Turning to media attention to coerce the public into believeing You dumb-asses are taking "dope" off the street! I hope all your kids turn into potheads!"

Fri, 01/19/2007 - 4:43pm Permalink
Uzz Baldrin (not verified)

I'm sure job applicants for the DEA are required to posses a certain trait...Lack of common sense. It's pretty outrageous what our government is doing to these people/patients that get releif from using a substance that was literally created by a higher power, (pun intended) and recommended by a doctor, they obviously tow the party line, it's to bad their so ignorant.

Fri, 01/19/2007 - 5:43pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If marijuana-use is allowed freely and openly, democracy might be legalized. And the other way around.

There's a connection there, between allowing the will of the people and allowing the will of the people.

If people are allowed to influence our minds as we want, we might want to influence our lives as we want.

Then the world's richest people - the 100.000 of the global elite, about half in the US (Source: Economist Jeff Faux, "Global Class War" 2006), herding the multitudes into predictable and profitable consumer-patterns - stand to lose a lot of wealth plus their power and super-affluent life-styles. That's what Bush's statement that "the American way of life is not negotionable" is all about.

So allowing pot-use is no minor matter. Even though already now about as many as want do use cannabis, and the hypocrisies around the unenforcable ban abound.

It's not the floodgates of pot-use that "federal authorities" (who really is the people) fear opened, it's the flood-gates of self-governing and self-determination.

Ole Ullern

Fri, 01/19/2007 - 9:36pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Anti-medical marijuana DEA jokers should grow up and get a real job and help build instead of destroy. The whole war on drugs does far more damage than it prevents.

Fri, 01/19/2007 - 10:52pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Maybe they should watch TV more statistically speaking there were probably 5 meth manufacting houses with 2 miles of the raids..
"Like shooting fish in a bucket"

They are just trying to actually do something, Since they obviously cant stop the ILLEGAL drugs they go after people that are trying to OBEY the law.

My advice to the dispensaries.. Just come out late at night and sell it on the corner.. The DEA will leave you alone then..


Fri, 01/19/2007 - 10:54pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I would just like to know who planted the pistol in that photo? A standard cop device, planting a gun, is utilized here to make dispensaries look criminal. Whenever there's a cocaine seizure there's a separate room for all the guns, this looks like the DEA had to take one out of their trunk.

Sat, 01/20/2007 - 1:01am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The "War"

In 1914 1.3% of the people used drugs. In 1970 1.3% of the people used drugs. In 2007 1.3% of the people use drugs.

Time for a peace treaty

Sat, 01/20/2007 - 2:30pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Since it is against State Law to rob someone at Gunpoint, why cant the Sherriffs Dept arrest and jail all these Federal Thugs, would be interesting to see them Charged with Armed Robbery, Using a Firearm during the commission of a crime and so on, and of course put them in General Population without Bail. Maybe then the Governor could publish the names,addresses,and photos of all Federal Law Enforcement employees in this State.

Sun, 01/21/2007 - 12:04pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The DEA web site tries to support a misguided claim that cannabis has no medical value. The evidence is clear that cannabis does bring relief to patients suffering with Glaucoma, Chemo related nausea, Aids related waisting and chronic pain.

What an egregious misuse of Federal authority. I am a Regan Republican who just moved over to the democratic party. State Rights R.I.P.

Tue, 01/23/2007 - 2:16am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I hope you all realize what you sound like--a bunch of drug addicts that have no education. That second posting, "Totally irrational," was talking about how pot helps him/her be more creative and so on. Then, there are all of these postings by people who want to legalize drugs. Medical marijuana does not cure disease. Medical marijuana is not for recreational use. If marijuana was legalized, a rally to legalize the next most popular drug would follow, and so and so on. The people writing these postings sound so stupid, and most of you probably use drugs recreationally. You lash out at people in the DEA with hostility comparable to a violent criminal. Obviously you people don't have anything good or anything intelligent to say!

Tue, 01/23/2007 - 5:19pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

What you apparently don't realize is that your post SCREAMS of intolerance and unreality. It is full of assertions that are either wrong (who are you to be able to evaluate or measure someone elses creativity), beside the point (most medicine is palliative anyway) or wrong (marijuana has a history of recreational use that is as old as civilization).

There was one hopeful point. Maybe with marijuana decriminalized we could return to the traditonal values of this country. A country where NO drugs were illegal -- as was the case prior to 1913. We also didn't have an income tax or the Federal Reserve. Wouldn't that be nice?

Were our forefathers more intelligent than we are? Probably. They certainly valued freedom more than you do. You lash out at people that want to live their lives and not harm anyone else or treat their medical conditions in ways that seem appropriate for them with a stridency that only apologists for a police state seem to be able to muster.

People like you are not intelligent enough to realize that your life is yours and mine is mine. How sad.

Wed, 01/24/2007 - 3:33am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In Bush’s State of the Union speech he said: “And in all we do, we must remember that the best healthcare decisions are not made by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.” It is time to stick it back on Bush for his comment when his government routinely harasses and arrests doctors prescribing pain drugs and medical marijuana.
Up in Smoke,
Ron Linker
Millfield, Ohio

Wed, 01/24/2007 - 11:52am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Makes me sick that when people see a gun all they think is criminal. What happened to the right to bare arms? They want you to see a gun as something always bad. Here folks keep these evil weapons away from you and your family. Just trust in us we will protect you. And how sad is it that this other guy comes on here bashing us b/c we don't share his moral beliefs. Yep buddy you were right, I only smoke b/c I wanna get high. Its no worse than caffine, candy, fastfood, prescription drugs, etc. I prefer my mind altered, your reality sucks.

Thu, 01/25/2007 - 5:58pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

you all just see the idiuts whith weed they sell it and think ther cool bute weed is natrul its a plant you tork about it like its gena kill u well its not ther rare so meny thing the plant is used for the bibel was ariganaly made out of hemp wich is weed and the deklaraion of independats day and rastaferians they use it as part of ther religon.

i was reding the news paper and it sede some stuped kid stole a car and killd some one and he was under the infulance of weed and thay blamed it on that WEED dus not make you do things like that he was just a kid hu got brurt up rong and someked weed cuse he fort it was cool and becuse hes mates did it ITS JUST STUPED pepel think cus its coold a drug its bad

Thu, 07/19/2007 - 12:06pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Beer and Marijuana are very closely related. Kingdom: Plantae, Phylum: Magnoliophyta, Class: Magnoliopsida, Order: Rosales, Family: Cannabaceae, Genus: Cannibus (hemp), Humulus (hops). Science is great. The truth will someday prevail. I understand some views of the DEA, I mean they can't ALL be bad people. Most of them, I believe, see many bad examples of the behavior of some people who smoke marijuana and it ruins it for those who are more intelligent and responsible.

Wed, 08/01/2007 - 12:01am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I can not believe that there is a legal limit to drink and drive yet you can not have Marijuana period. It has been proven that you can drive the same, if not better, under the influence of Marijuana because of paranoia and deep though. Think about the average drunk to the average "stoner," Marijuana smokers have never shown any signs of aggression, but drunks are notorious for unacceptable behavior. I am a strong believer that the only reason the government will not give in to the legalization of Marijuana is because they can not make money from it because so many people already grow and harvest their own.
Prohibition didn't work back then so their is no reason it should now. In one year, vote Ron Paul for President and for legalization.

oh and, Fuck the Government.

Mon, 10/08/2007 - 2:28pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The DEA and everyone else that supports the "war on drugs" are war criminals. They should all be executed as soon as they are found guilty.

Mon, 10/22/2007 - 9:50pm Permalink

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