Pubdate: Tue, 18 Jun 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Alison Soltau, Special To The Examiner


When Gary Thomas' pet shop, Exotic Pets, started to smell suspiciously
like backstage at a Cypress Hill gig, a police raid found what they
claim was one of The City's largest illegal drug factories, containing
500 marijuana plants.

But Thomas told police he had chronic backaches and District Attorney
Terence Hallinan assured him that, under Proposition 215, he could
grow dope to toke away the pain -- without being weeded out by cops.

While San Francisco police have their largest dope seizure in two
years, and the officers involved are being nominated for a department
commendation, they have not arrested Thomas. The police say they have
to powwow with Hallinan this week.

Hallinan'sspokesman declined to comment last week, saying the DA would
wait for police to investigate further and present a criminal case.

"We could smell a real heavy odor of marijuana and people were
complaining that it was coming from Exotic Pets," Sgt. Ricky Galande
said of last week's raid.

Police broke through a padlocked door inside the shop and discovered a
sophisticated hydroponic system supporting about 500 cannabis plants
in an 18-by-30-foot room.

"(Thomas) told me he was growing it because it was legal for him to do
so, under Prop. 215 for his bad back," Galande said. "He said Terence
Hallinan told him it was OK to do that.

"We said, 'We don't believe you.'"

Police are investigating where the dope was being taken and whether it
was part of a larger drug operation, unrelated to medical-marijuana

Galande suspected Thomas was using the pet shop as a cover for a drug
den, hoping the smell of animal feces would disguise the waft of the

He said he expected to charge Thomas this week after Taraval district
Capt. Denis O'Leary discussed the case with Hallinan.

Thomas could not be reached for comment. 
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