Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jan 2004
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Copyright: 2004 New Times
Author: Chris Thompson
Cited: Office of National Drug Control Policy
Cited: Drug Enforcement Administration ( )
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


Director of gay teen center threatens to bring in the feds and the
media if local pot clubs don't give him what he wants.

Poor Roosevelt Mosby is just a big lovable queen who wants to do right
by the 1,300 queer youth who come to his downtown Oakland community
center. But the recent explosion of medical cannabis clubs nearby is
creating an unsafe environment for his kids, a neighborhood where
people on the street offer drugs to his teens, and one club was the
scene of a recent armed robbery.

And now Mosby has been "forced out" of the neighborhood. All because
of the pot clubs and the sketchy scene they've ushered into the
neighborhood now known as Oaksterdam.

At least, that's the story the Chronicle and the Tribune have reported
in recent months.

Three prominent medical cannabis activists have since come forward
with a decidedly different, and somewhat disturbing, version of events.

They claim that since October, Mosby has demanded hundreds of
thousands of dollars from the pot clubs to buy a building somewhere in
Oakland. Two of these activists claim that shortly after they failed
to meet his demands, Mosby urged federal drug authorities to
investigate the neighborhood, even offering assistance. And this
newspaper has acquired a recording of a voicemail Mosby left earlier
this month, in which he tells a cannabis activist her offer of $10,000
isn't good enough, that the federal government is interested in
talking to him, and that he would give her a deadline of January 15.

The trouble first started in August, when Mosby -- who runs the Sexual
Minority Alliance of Alameda County Youth Center -- held a press
conference and published an op-ed piece in the Tribune, in which he
claimed that his young clients "have been approached by cannabis club
members seeking to resell the prescription they just obtained," and
that his center was "drowning in a sea of medical marijuana
dispensaries and the characters these dispensaries attract."

As Mayor Jerry Brown ordered an investigation into the clubs, their
leaders tried to make peace with Mosby, who had started claiming
publicly that the neighborhood was no longer safe for his kids, and
that he would have to move to a different part of the city. In a
series of meetings beginning in October, activists met with Mosby and
offered to help raise funds to finance his move -- and even to move
the center's furniture themselves.

But behind closed doors, activists claim, they saw another side to
Mosby. According to Angel Raich, a patient and medical cannabis
activist who attended the meetings, Mosby demanded that the club
owners give him the down payment for the massive San Pablo Avenue
building he had his eye on. And if they didn't give him the money,
Raich claims, Mosby threatened to further denounce them in the press
- -- and even contact the federal government. "They basically wanted to
buy a building, not rent," Raich says. "The building they wanted was
the old creamery building.

They were talking hundreds of thousands.

They said it several times. ... They not only threatened us with the
feds, they threatened to call the media if we did not give them money."

Jeff Jones, executive director of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers'
Cooperative, also attended the meetings and concurs that Mosby
demanded money. "I'm trying to work with him, and what he's allowed me
to do is only give him money," Jones says. "Outside of that, he
doesn't want to talk to us." And Clare Lewis, who represents the
Uptown Merchants Association, an umbrella group of pot clubs and
regular businesses, claims Mosby reserved the right to badmouth them
in the press, even in the midst of negotiations: "He said, 'I found a
building, and I need money,'" she claims. "Money was raised, but the
cannabis community requested that he quit destroying us in the press.

He said, 'Well, I have to do what's best for my kids.

Negotiations soon broke down, and in December, Mosby drafted a letter
to John Walters, the director of the White House Office of National
Drug Control Policy. "We implore you to immediately visit Oakland,
California, to assess a situation that has gotten out of hand and that
the local officials are doing nothing to address," Mosby wrote. "Young
people and narcotics is an unholy mixture that we believe must be
addressed today and since our local officials are reluctant to act
decisively, we are hoping you will see value in protecting society's
most vulnerable members and act today. ... Please call us to discuss
your visit.

We will personally give you a tour of this community."

The following month, Lewis approached Mosby and asked to make peace.
She offered to raise as much as $15,000 for him, and in return, she
claims, Mosby offered a "week of truce." A few days later, Lewis told
one of Mosby's colleagues she hadn't been able to raise that much
money yet. On January 14, he left her a voicemail message.

"Hi Clare, this is Roosevelt," he said. "Let me just tell you what I
heard from Brian, that you got $10,000. Clare, that don't come near to
where we need to be. And so I'm going to give you till tomorrow, for
us to talk tomorrow.

But people, I have put off people from the news media. ... I have
heard back from the White House; they have some things that they want
me to do, and I have not talked to them. I won't talk to them because
of what my word has been to you. But I've got to raise this money, and
I cannot.

What you all have decided was that you all cannot help to [get us]
even close to where we need to be. So certainly, we're gonna try to be
harmless to the cannabis clubs.

But we got to cause some friction in this community to try to get the
money up."

Mosby claims his voicemail was intended as a harmless plea to get the
cannabis clubs to help him get money from the city council.

He acknowledges writing to the White House, but denies ever trying to
secure money from Lewis or making any threats to Lewis or the pot club
operators. In fact, he claims this message was just part of an ongoing
conversation about how the clubs can best help his organization. "This
is very ugly, it is very ugly," he says. "People asked us, what did we
need? We always told them we didn't believe that this was their job;
this is the city's responsibility. And they now turning it on us, that
we are demanding -- this is just ugly.

"She asked me in January, when she met up with me, could we go into
peace?" Mosby continues. "That means that I wouldn't call nobody, that
I wouldn't talk to the federal government, and see what we can do
together, and work together as cannabis clubs and SMAAC, to build
community and make sure we get to move. That's what she asked of me. I
said, 'Okay, Clare, I can do that.' We waited a week, she came back,
she said, 'I got $5,000.' I said, 'Well, Clare, you saw what we need.

Mosby is right about one thing -- this story is very ugly. Driven in
part by this bizarre squabble, the council is scheduled to finally
impose regulations on the pot clubs, including limiting their number
to four, requiring business licenses, and charging a regulatory fee to
defray the cost of policing their operations. The club owners are
grumbling that the new rules are draconian, but it could be worse --
the DEA could kick down their doors and haul them to jail. Come to
think of it, thanks to Mosby, that just might happen anyway.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin