Pubdate: Tue, 14 May 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Dan Evans
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Free love has gone to pot in the medical marijuana community.

Suspicion and infighting are raging through groups that run the City's pot 
dispensaries, after the recent closure of two local marijuana clubs and 
reports that one man arrested in a February DEA pot raid is talking to the 

CHAMP -- Californians Helping Alleviate Medical Problems -- closed its 
doors at 194 Church St. earlier this month, and the Sunset Medical Resource 
Center recently announced it would no longer provide marijuana to sick 

Fellow pot club proprietors say the clubs got out of the marijuana business 
because of increased pressure from the federal government.

But reports that James Halloran, who was arrested in a February raid of the 
Harm Reduction Center on Sixth Street, talked to federal agents, is fueling 
community paranoia and pitting some in the community against one another.

Dale Gieringer, spokesman for the California chapter of the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, downplayed Halloran's 
federal chat. Gieringer said it is understandable that the 61-year-old, who 
has hepatitis C and faces at least 10 years in prison on charges he grew 
thousands of plants, would want to cooperate.

"He wouldn't have said anything incriminating other than that people were 
selling marijuana to sick people, and everyone knows that anyhow," 
Gieringer said.

Dennis Roberts, Hollaran's attorney, was not available for comment.

Jim Green, who runs the Market Street Club and is regarded as a renegade 
among the cannabis club community, sneered at the latest informant debacle. 
"It doesn't surprise me at all," he said. "You're going to be looking at an 
escalating mess. What kind of honor do you have among street drug dealers? 
This sort of thing happens with the mob."

The U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco, which is prosecuting Halloran 
along with Edward Rosenthal, Kenneth Hayes and Richard Watts, declined to 
discuss information gathered in the aftermath of the pre-dawn February raid.

Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Richard Meyer also declined 
comment.     It is not the first time informants have taken a toll on San 
Francisco's pot clubs. A priest connected to the Harm Reduction Center 
wrote at least two letters to the DEA, claiming the medical marijuana 
movement was moving toward greed and profiteering.

A few days later, the club on Sixth Street was raided. Court documents 
dealing with the raid show DEA agents had been watching operations at the 
nearby CHAMP club.

Pressure on pot clubs has also been increased in the courtroom.

On May 3, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ruled the federal 
administration is allowed to regulate drug activity, even those activities 
that take place entirely within a state's borders. California legalized 
medical marijuana with Proposition 215 in 1996.

The federal ruling, and the February raid, was enough to persuade CHAMP to 
close, said Wayne Justmann, a longtime medicinal marijuana activist who 
runs the San Francisco Patients' Cooperative pot club.

"We regret to inform you that CHAMP is now closed," stated the club's 
answering machine. No other information was given, and representatives of 
the club did not return repeated phone calls.

The club decided to shutter operations after meetings with its lawyer, 
Oakland attorney Bill Panzer. Panzer, while saying he could not describe 
the meetings because of attorney-client privilege, acknowledged CHAMP would 
most likely be a target of a criminal raid if it remained open.

District Attorney Terence Hallinan, a longtime supporter of medical 
marijuana, said he was saddened by CHAMP's closure.

He said the cannabis clubs have greatly reduced street marijuana dealing, 
and fears the illegal commerce will increase if the feds continue their 
crackdown on the clubs.
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