Pubdate: Wed, 02 Aug 2006
Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser (CA)
Column: Cannabinotes
Copyright: 2006 Anderson Valley Advertiser
Author: Fred Gardner
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


In 1996, August 4 fell on a Sunday. That morning, in the wee small hours, 
some 100 agents from the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, 
supervised by John Gordnier, the Senior Assistant Attorney General, raided 
1444 Market Street, a five-story building that housed the San Francisco 
Cannabis Buyers Club and Proposition -215 campaign headquarters. Five 
smaller BNE squads simultaneously raided the homes of Buyers Club staff 
members in and around the city. The raiders wore black uniforms with BNE 
shoulder patches.

They seized 150 pounds of marijuana, $60,000 in cash, 400 growing plants, 
plus thousands of letters of diagnosis that citizens had brought from their 
doctors and left on file at the club.

"It was strange not seeing any San Francisco police," remarked Basile 
Gabriel, one of the seven employees who had slept at the club and was 
interrogated that morning. "It felt like the state had invaded the city." 
Mayor Willie Brown said the high-profile bust had been carried out 
unbeknownst to him, and he accused Attorney General Lungren of using 
"Gestapo tactics." (The club's front door had been battered in and the 
raiders hung black drapes over the windows to conceal what they were doing 
from civilian observers on Market Street.)  The San Francisco Medical 
Society protested the confiscation of medical records as a violation of 
doctor-patient confidentiality. Dennis Peron charged that closing him down 
was "step one in Lungren's No-on-215 campaign.

It was timed to kick off the Republican convention in San Diego. They want 
to make the war on drugs a big issue because what else have they got?"

A few of Dennis's so-called allies in the Yes-on-215 campaign did not want 
to see him reopen.

They argued that ongoing publicity around the SFCBC would jeopardize their 
chances of success at the polls.

A man named Bill Zimmerman had replaced Peron as the official campaign 
manager; his ascendancy was the political price extracted by the group now 
known as the Drug Policy Alliance for financing a professional signature 
drive. Zimmerman went so far as to urge the northern California ACLU 
chapter not to file an amicus brief on Dennis's behalf. "Every time I 
debate Brad Gates," said Zimmerman, referring to the Orange County Sheriff, 
a No-on-215 leader, "he always begins by saying, 'This bill was written by 
a dope dealer from San Francisco,' and emphasizes the looseness with which 
the Cannabis Buyers Club was run."

The focus on the SFCBC intensified in late September when major California 
newspapers ran a Doonesbury strip in which Zonker's friend Cornell says, "I 
can't get hold of any pot for our AIDS patients.

Our regular sources have been spooked ever since the Cannabis Buyers' Club 
in San Francisco got raided..."

Attorney General Lungren feared the impact these strips would have on the 
Prop 215 campaign amd urged the publishers carrying Doonesbury to spike the 
entire set. "Alternatively," he suggested in a letter that was widely run 
as an op-ed piece, "your organization should consider running a disclaimer 
side-by-side with the strips which states the known facts related to the 
Cannabis Buyers Club." According to Lungren, a lengthy BNE investigation 
had established that the club "sold marijuana to teenagers.

Sold marijuana to adults without doctors' notes.

Sold marijuana to people with fake doctors' notes using phony doctors names 
and in some cases written on scrap paper. Allowed many small children 
inside the club where they were exposed for lengthy periods of time to 
second-hand marijuana smoke.

Sold marijuana to people whose stated ailments included vaginal yeast 
infections, insomnia, sore backs and colitis -hardly terminal diseases.

Sold marijuana in amounts as large as two pounds, greatly exceeding the 
club's 'rules.'"

Lungren called a press conference for Tuesday, Oct. 1, to reveal some of 
the evidence his investigators had assembled against Peron and the SF 
Cannabis Buyers Club. Unfortunately, he lost his cool during the 
question-and-answer session. "Skin flushed and voiced raised, Attorney 
General Dan Lungren went head-to-head with a comic strip Tuesday..." is how 
Robert Salladay began his Oakland Tribune story.  Don Asmussen in the SF 
Examiner lampooned "Lungren's War on Comics." The New York Times devoted 
two full columns to the brouhaha, including a quote from Peron: "Crybaby 
Lungren... I think he's just gone off the deep end. Waaa!"

Lungren had Peron arrested Oct. 5 on criminal charges that included 
conspiracy to distribute marijuana -one more effort to make the vote a 
referendum on the proprietor of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club. 
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop carried the No-on-215 message in a 
final TV ad. Press conferences denouncing Prop 215 were held by Drug Czar 
Barry McCaffrey and Joseph Califano, president of the National Center on 
Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Former presidents 
Ford, Carter and Bush released a letter calling for its defeat.

Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein opposed 215, along 
with 57 of 58 district attorneys and all the law-enforcement lobbies.

We, the voters passed it by a 56-44 margin, rejecting a lifetime of War on 
Drugs propaganda. We were trying to tell the government something about 
marijuana -that it's no BFD, it can even be good for you-based on our 
collective experience and understanding. Our important message has been 
ignored. The authorities who opposed Prop 215 in '96 have succeeded in 
severely limiting its implementation and are actively trying to roll it 
back. They have the nerve to justify the rollback in the name of "what the 
voters envisioned." They claim that the voters didn't envision doctors 
approving marijuana for the treatment of depression and other "hardly 
terminal diseases." They claim the voters didn't envision distribution 
through Cannabis Buyers Clubs... How would they know why we voted "Yes?" 
They all voted "No."

Vroman in the Gloamin'

Terence Hallinan of San Francisco was the only district attorney in 
California who supported Prop 215 when it was on the ballot in 1996. When 
Norm Vroman was elected DA from Mendocino two years later, Hallinan was 
grateful to have an ally. He came back from a meeting of the DAs 
Association with glowing words of praise for the principled Libertarian 
from up North. Albion activist Pebbles Trippet also spoke admiringly of 
Vroman -and still does. Even David Moore and Mike Schneider of the 
MendoHealing collective, whom Vroman has charged with cultivation of 
cannabis for sale, think that the DA has been misinformed about the nature 
of their operation.

They say that if only he knew how many poor people were 
beneficiaries...  Everybody seems to think Norm Vroman is committed to full 
implementation of California's medical marijuana law.

I don't -not after listening to Vroman at a meeting of the Medical 
Marijuana Advisory Board in Fort Bragg last Friday evening.

I heard a man trying to pass off stubbornness for integrity and electoral 
pandering for a righteous worldview. "My philosophy," Vroman said more than 
once, "is that if you're from Mendocino County and you're providing 
marijuana for people in Mendocino County, you won't have a problem." This 
elicited a knee-jerk cheer from some in attendance -New Settlers who now 
consider themselves Original Gangstas. They reminded me of anti-immigrant 
vigilantes in the Southwest who come on like native Americans. When did 
these gringos' forbearers fall off the pickle boat? David Moore's "crime" 
is that he moved to Fort Bragg in 2002 and provided high-quality marijuana 
to people in San Francisco at a low price.

Mike Schneider's "crime" is that he worked for MendoHealing. (He thought it 
was fulfilling the purpose of Prop 215. Schneider, an idealist, earned a 
fraction of what a grower with his skills could have made if his goals were 

People in San Francisco, especially the poor, don't have the set-up or the 
training to grow high-resin cannabis.

They don't grow their own wine grapes or tomatoes, either.

Vroman's comments about letting people in other counties "fend for 
themselves" might evoke applause from some Mendoland chauvinists, but it's 
disconnected from socioeconomic reality and mean-spirited. Vroman said that 
"people driving up the 101 corridor" to get marijuana have "created a lot 
of problems." He didn't specify what the problems have been. He doesn't 
express contempt for people who drive up 101 to visit the wineries and 
drive home with a case of Merlot from Handley or Maple Creek. Are the wine 
people better drivers, or are the "problems" the result of law enforcement 
profiling and stopping the marijuana people?

Pebbles Trippet heard in Vroman's comments an "openness" to re-examine the 
law created by SB-420 (which protects "Qualified patients... and the 
designated primary caregivers of qualified patients... who associate within 
California in order to collectively or cooperatively cultivate marijuana 
for medical purposes"). What I heard was a zealous prosecutor intent on 
taking down MendoHealing himself or seeing the case transferred to the U.S. 
attorney.  With the sole exception of Terence Hallinan, officials from 
every branch of government at every level -local, state, and 
federal-opposed Prop 215.  It was enacted by the people and it's going to 
be up to the people --twelve citizens in a jury box-- to reiterate its message.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom