DEA Destroys 20 Plants In Latest California Raid
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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #255 Wed Sep 25, 2002
On Tuesday morning, Sept 23 in San Diego, the DEA conducted yet another raid on a medical marijuana provider. This time the victim was Steve McWilliams and his Shelter From the Storm garden, which provides legal medical marijuana to six patients in the SoCal area. Agents arrived to seize the plants from his modest garden which had already been trimmed and the useful medicine distributed.
This action comes on the heels of the Feds previous arrests of McWilliams for growing in larger quantities and following a warning last week by letter to McWilliams from the local U.S. Attorney.
Any of the federal raids on legal California medical marijuana dispensaries are reprehensible, but this latest is likely the most audacious and heartless move yet by John Ashcroft and Asa Hutchinson's agents. With the U.S./Mexico border just miles away providing an entry point for literally millions of dollars per day in illegal drugs, the DEA decided to divert agents and valuable resources to shutting down the Shelter From the Storm garden.
As shown in the article below, this raid is still another direct and overt attempt by the Feds to punish anyone who might be publicly critical of U.S. policy.
Additionally, this action took place less than a week following an extremely strong opinion column in the San Diego Union-Tribune by the Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann. In his column, archived at http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02.n1804.a11.html Nadelmann astutely and accurately demonstrates why any such raids by federal agents are foolhardy practice and a sad waste of valuable federal law enforcement agents.
These DEA actions against medical cannabis users and those who help them are far from rare, as shown by the list maintained here http://www.canorml.org/news/fedmmjcases.html
Please contact the San Diego Union-Tribune today and let them know how you feel about this latest raid. Further, let them know how you feel about Nadelmann's column and thank them for their continued coverage of this very urgent topic.
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Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
FOLLOWING is the story of the raid from the San Diego Union Tribune published today, Wednesday, 25 September:
POT GARDEN UPROOTED IN RAID
Federal warrant used to search home of marijuana activists
By Jeff McDonald and Marisa Taylor, Staff Writers
One week after Steve McWilliams handed out medical marijuana outside San Diego City Hall, drug enforcement agents uprooted his Normal Heights pot garden and said he may face cultivation charges in federal court.
The first of its kind ever in San Diego, the raid began at around 11:20 a.m. yesterday when about 10 members of a regional drug enforcement task force used a federal warrant to search the property.
They confiscated 26 maturing plants - some as tall as 8 feet - and about 10 pounds of loose marijuana cultivated by McWilliams under a state law that permits medicinal use of the drug. Officers also carted away irrigation equipment, fans and other marijuana-growing tools.
No arrests were made. Agents said the decision to bring charges against McWilliams or his partner, Barbara MacKenzie, would be made by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"He claims this is medicine," said Donald Thornhill Jr. of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which sought the warrant. "From our perspective, there's no medical use for this."
U.S. Attorney Carol Lam said her office is reviewing the case to decide whether to pursue charges. She declined to comment further.
Medical-marijuana activists across the state contend that the federal government is cracking down on activists such as McWilliams so that more people do not attempt to grow marijuana under California's Proposition 215.
Thornhill said the seizure had nothing to do with McWilliams' protest outside City Hall last Tuesday. "This has been on the agenda for a while," he said. "It's the politics of the time."
McWilliams had staged his protest to support a similar demonstration in Santa Cruz, where elected officials joined 1,000 or more people criticizing the DEA for an earlier raid on a marijuana cooperative there.
Neither McWilliams nor MacKenzie was home when the narcotics team went to the Wilson Avenue residence. Agents climbed through an open window before taking an inventory of the home's contents.
Television news crews taped the raid as it unfolded, while neighbors came out of their homes to watch.
McWilliams arrived about 10 minutes later and was told that if he entered the property he would be detained. He left soon afterward but not before sharply criticizing the government's action.
"I don't know why this is happening," he said. "I've had police officers out here, probation officers out here, even the city attorney's office out here I don't know how many times."
The search warrant was executed at the height of the annual harvest. McWilliams said most of the marijuana seized was not yet useable.
"It might have been 10 pounds with the branches and leaves, but it was totally unmanicured," he said.
The action was not entirely a surprise.
McWilliams was hand-delivered a letter from Lam last week warning him that his plants violated federal drug laws - even though they are allowed by city and state officials under Proposition 215.
MacKenzie and McWilliams said that over the weekend they trimmed their plants and delivered marijuana to patients. They said several of the patients returned the marijuana Monday because they feared reprisals from the government.
Both marijuana activists have been working closely with local officials to abide by guidelines being drafted by a city task force.
Those recommendations are scheduled to be debated by a City Council committee next month.
"I trusted the political process," said MacKenzie, who was angry after arriving home to find federal agents searching her home.
"They don't want to prosecute. They just want to take the medicine."
San Diego Councilwoman Toni Atkins, who helped organize the city task force, called the seizure "unfortunate."
"It's a tragedy that the will of the voters of the state of California, who overwhelmingly passed Proposition 215 in an effort to help sick people, continues to be subverted," she said.
The city will push ahead with plans to issue identification cards to medical-marijuana patients, Atkins said. San Diego attorney Patrick Dudley is representing McWilliams and MacKenzie for free. Outside the home yesterday, he said there was little he could do but wait to see whether his clients are charged.
"I've never seen a case with such a small amount (of marijuana)," he said. "It's getting ludicrous. They're being targeted because they're speaking out."
The question now is whether McWilliams will be charged with any crime. In Santa Cruz, federal prosecutors declined to charge several activists who were arrested by federal agents earlier this month.
Peter Nunez, San Diego's U.S. attorney under President Reagan, predicted that the Justice Department would pursue criminal charges, especially because McWilliams has refused to back down.
"This guy is begging to be prosecuted," Nunez said. "I'm sure there are people who are quietly growing 10 plants in their back yards but they won't be prosecuted because they aren't publicizing the fact."
Stephen G. Nelson, a former assistant U.S. attorney of 25 years who headed the office's drug division, agreed that a prosecution is likely but said he hoped the U.S. attorney would turn down the case.
"If it's a small number of plants and they are being grown consistent with California law, it's obviously a waste of federal resources to prosecute this guy," he said.
McWilliams said medical-marijuana activists are rallying to help him and are planning protests for today at federal buildings around the state.
"Everyone knows what kind of place we ran," he said. "There was no large amount of patients and no large amount of plants. People are very upset."
Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Every day more stories appear in the press about medical cannabis that could also make superb targets for Letters to the Editor. Please use this link to review the articles often, and please, write your letters http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm
To learn about the frequent protests please visit the Americans for Safe Access website - and consider signing up for their action announcement list http://www.safeaccessnow.org/
(Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work.)
To the editors of the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Thank you for running the astute commentary of Ethan Nadelmann (The Hospice Raid and The War On Drugs, Sep 19), which accurately decries continuing federal raids of legal California medical marijuana dispensaries. How sad and tragic to read less than a week later of yet another raid, this time on the Shelter From the Storm garden of Steven McWilliams in San Diego, which provides legal medical marijuana to a whopping total of six patients. DEA agents stormed McWilliam's garden to seize a hand full of plants?
With the U.S./Mexican border just miles away being an entry point for literally millions of dollars per day in illegal narcotics, the DEA chose to waste valuable resources and manpower on this petty and terroristic raid. Considering McWilliams' history of publicly criticizing the federal government's policies on medical marijuana, such an operation can only be seen as utterly vindictive and yet another slap in the face to California voters and their law which permits him to operate legally.
Where are your governor and attorney general? Why are they not on the front page of every newspaper in the state demanding the end of this federal harassment and terrorism against your citizens?
Stephen Heath Clearwater FL (ALWAYS INCLUDE your address and phone number so the newspaper can verify. Most papers will not print your letter otherwise.)
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Prepared by: Stephen Heath, Focus Alert Specialist,
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