Pubdate: Fri, 23 Dec 2005
Source: North County Times (Escondido, CA)
Copyright: 2005 North County Times
Note: Gives LTE priority to North San Diego County and Southwest 
Riverside County residents
Author: Jo Moreland, Staff Writer
Cited: Americans for Safe Access
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


SAN MARCOS -- As federal agents continued to sort out evidence seized
last week in raids at 13 medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego
County, an employee at a San Marcos outlet said Thursday that business
has dropped.

"They pretty much took everything that they could take," the young man

On a good day before the Dec. 12 raids, he said, there used to be 25
patients at the Legal Ease Inc. office at 323 S. Rancho Santa Fe Road.

He declined to give his name or say how many patients no longer come
to the small strip mall office with the dirty blue carpet, eclectic
furnishings and lingering odor.

The San Marcos dispensary was the only one in North County hit by U.S.
Drug Enforcement agents and state and local officers.

The other 12 places were in San Diego, including the Legal Ease
headquarters in Normal Heights. An employee at that office said by
phone that the business wouldn't be giving out any information and no
spokesperson was available.

The home of a dispensary owner was also searched, but no one has been
arrested in the continuing investigation, said Special Agent Misha
Piastro, DEA spokesman.

"We're still in the process of analyzing the evidence that was seized
to see what laws have been violated, if any, and by whom," Piastro
said. "We have not filed any charges yet."

He said the raids were conducted after undercover agents were able to
buy marijuana without prescriptions, doctor's recommendations "or
medical necessity of any kind" at some of the places.

Marijuana and small amounts of so-called "magic mushrooms" and hashish
were seized, in addition to documents, Piastro said. He said
dispensary prices were sometimes three times higher than marijuana on
the streets.

Stephen Blehm, of San Marcos, said he was concerned about whether he
would still be able to get marijuana for treatment of post-traumatic
stress syndrome. It was caused by exposure to something in Alaska
while he was in the Navy, Blehm said.

"It helps me to sleep, eat," he said about marijuana. "It just calms
me down. What bothers me is, where's my patient records?"

Piastro said he didn't know whether patient records were seized in the
raids, which triggered protests the next day at federal buildings in
San Diego and 15 cities across the nation, including Riverside;
Washington, D.C.; Dallas and Salt Lake City.

Patients fear that federal raids will jeopardize access to legal
marijuana, forcing them to go without that relief or into buying on
the black market, said Karen Woodson, campaign director for Americans
for Safe Access, a national coalition that advocates legal
availability of medical marijuana.

"Some (San Diego) clubs remain closed," Woodson said. "It was a pretty
substantial hit on San Diego."

She said the raids are part of the largest federal crackdown under way
now in California, where in 1996 voters passed Proposition 215
allowing medical use of marijuana for chronically or seriously ill

That state law doesn't allow people to deal drugs disguised as a
medical dispensary, and agents are continuing to enforce federal law
against marijuana trafficking, Piastro said. 
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