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Medical Marijuana: First California DEA Arrests Under Obama Took Place Last Week

Submitted by David Borden on (Issue #599)
Politics & Advocacy

A massive DEA operation featuring dozens of heavily armed agents and at least four helicopters ended with the arrests of five people in California's Lake County last week. According to California NORML, the arrests are believed to be the first since the Obama administration announced it would not target medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal unless they violated both state and federal law.

The DEA seized 154 marijuana plants from Upper Lake resident Tom Carter, and arrested him, former UMCC dispensary operator Scott Feil and his wife, Steven Swanson, and Brett Bassignani. Carter is a registered medical marijuana patient and provider, and his wife, Jamie Ceridono, told the Lake County News he was growing for several patients and his grow was legal under state law.

The genesis of the bust appears to lie with an alleged May deal between a DEA informant and Bassignani to purchase marijuana. According to documents filed by Carter's federal defenders late last week, the informant claimed to have arranged to buy marijuana from Carter and to have left a voicemail message for Carter to set up the deal. That same informant allegedly made a deal to buy marijuana from Bassignani.

In the document, the federal defenders said prosecutors made no claim that Carter ever heard the phone message the informant allegedly left, and they set out no evidence linking Carter and the informant.

"All the complaint says is that another individual, Mr. Bassignani, called the informant, claimed he worked for 'Carter Construction,' and arranged a marijuana deal," Carter's defense attorneys wrote. "The deal later took place, and the only other reference to Mr. Carter is the conclusory claim that the informant 'had agreed on the price with Carter.' No context, no specifics, and no other information is provided in the complaint which indicates that Mr. Carter in fact talked to the informant, arranged a marijuana deal, and indicated that he (Carter) was knowingly involved in a marijuana transaction."

Moving that the two felony counts of marijuana trafficking against Carter be dismissed, the attorneys added: "This complaint is sadly deficient with regard to whether Mr. Carter has done anything to indicate that he conspired to break the law. It should be dismissed accordingly."

It is unclear why Feil and his wife were arrested. They are neighbors of Carter and his wife.

Carter and Feil are being held in Oakland, where they are set to have initial detention hearings this week. Federal prosecutors have asked that Carter be held pending trial "on the basis of flight risk and danger to the community."

Carter is a long-time resident of Upper Lake, prominent construction contractor, and community benefactor.

"California already has enough federal marijuana criminals," said CANORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, "It's time for concrete changes in federal law."

While the Obama administration has announced it would not go after law-abiding medical marijuana providers, the DEA has conducted at least two raids against providers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, although there have been no arrests in those cases. The administration has not announced any changes in federal laws or regulations around medical marijuana, and Bush appointees continue to serve in the DEA and the US Attorney's Office of Northern California, which is prosecuting the case.

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.


maxwood (not verified)

Challenge prohibitionists to deny that anything, such as raids and destruction of plants, which tends to raise the price of cannabis is ipso facto a protection of the tobacco hot burning overdose marketing industry.

The President, in signing the SCHIP cigarette tax hike and the FDA jurisdiction over cigarettes, made statements implying that he intended to do something about the addictive cigarette plague, now estimated by the American Cancer Society to reach the magic number 6 million deaths/yr. (remember the Other Holocaust?) by 2010.

1. Does raising cigarette taxes really solve the problem? Yes, there are claims it reduces consumption somewhat. But it INCREASES the government stake in Big 2Wackgo profits! And this recent news suggests even "liberal" (thanks, rwtsh) governments do a favor here and there for their "sponsor"-- by cracking down on cannabis!

2. The FDA announced it was forming a CENTER FOR TOBACCO PRODUCTS. Huh? Well, in the interest of fairness, how about a Center for Cannabis Products?

Fri, 08/28/2009 - 5:35pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Prohibitions incl. Tax & Regulate are cash cows for the sows... that ruin our lives while trying to run them!

Dirty Deeds Ain't Cheap,
Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. 'placating people is one of the fastest, surest ways of selling ideas or positions, as the merit of the idea or position will be far less important than if the position were to be presented in a more rational fashion' - Wiki

Sat, 08/29/2009 - 1:00am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Problem is when you get 'jury duty' they will not pick people like us... who can think for themselves... and understands the real 'rule of law'! Been on jury duty 3 times and never selected. Was told by the elders there you had to lie to be selected... honesty was a certain selection killer... you've gotta tell them what they want to hear.

So being an honest kind of guy when the 4th notice to serve came I refused and told them why... they threatened... I told them I didn't care & only call me after everyone else in town has served 3 times... never heard back!

Choose Legality,
Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. "Jury nullification is a de facto and traditional power of juries. Judges rarely inform juries of their nullification power. The power of jury nullification derives from an inherent quality of most modern common law systems" - Wiki

Wed, 09/02/2009 - 1:41pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Just how much money do these people control? If they can keep pot off the market and the tax dollars out of our public coffers ? How does this really work? is money to keep building prisons more important than rebuilding our bridges? How many pot users and dealers do they want in Jail ? Is this just completly insane or am I just stupid !!!

Sun, 09/06/2009 - 11:40am Permalink

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