Pubdate: Thu, 16 Aug 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times
Author: Steve Hymon
Cited: Los Angeles Police Department
Cited: Los Angeles City Council
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Some on the Council Say the Action Undermines a State Law Allowing 
the Medical Marijuana Sales.

Los Angeles police said Wednesday that they will continue to 
participate in federal raids on local medical marijuana dispensaries 
against the wishes of some members of the City Council.

A continuing conflict between federal and state drug laws, they said, 
has created a stalemate that doesn't appear likely to soon end.

Officials with the Los Angeles Police Department contend that it's 
their job to help enforce the federal law. Council members argue that 
police raids, at best, send a mixed message about the city's support 
for the state law passed in 1996 to permit the use of marijuana for 
prescribed medical purposes.

The discussion before the council Wednesday sparked sharp exchanges 
between council members and LAPD Cmdr. David R. Doan.

At one point, a frustrated Councilman Bill Rosendahl told Doan, "You 
are the policing organization that follows the laws that we put in 
place. [It's] not for you to interpret them."

Later, under more questioning, Doan refused to waver. "If it's going 
to be our position to say we're not going to help the [Drug 
Enforcement Administration], I'm not authorized to make that 
statement today," Doan said.

The council last month placed a yearlong moratorium on permitting new 
dispensaries in the city while lawyers draw up an ordinance to 
regulate them. At the time, several members of the council reiterated 
their support for the state law that allows medical marijuana 
dispensaries to exist.

On the same day the council passed the moratorium, the DEA raided 10 
dispensaries in Los Angeles, with LAPD officers providing logistical 
support. DEA officials said the timing of the raids was a coincidence 
and that they were merely enforcing federal law, which continues to 
prohibit any sale of marijuana.

As supporters of medical marijuana looked on, frequently applauding 
or booing during Wednesday's discussion, Doan told council members 
that the LAPD had a positive relationship with the DEA -- which helps 
with drug enforcement in the city -- and didn't want to risk damaging 
that relationship. It is also LAPD policy, Doan said, to provide 
assistance with lawful federal warrants.

Doan said that it is the LAPD's view that some of the city's more 
than 200 dispensaries are a nuisance to their communities and that 
some are violating the state law that mandates they not profit on their sales.

However, Doan said he did not know why the DEA targeted the 
dispensaries that it did last month, nor did the LAPD apparently ask 
before agreeing to help with the raids.

DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen said Wednesday that the agency was not 
revealing the reasons it chose to raid the 10 facilities and that 
warrants for the searches remained under seal.

"The bottom line is anyone distributing marijuana is in violation of 
federal law," Pullen said.

Both Rosendahl and Doan said that it remained unclear whether the 
council ultimately had the authority to tell the LAPD whether it was 
permitted to participate in the DEA raids. Local laws often shield 
police from such orders as a way to guard against political abuses.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn said the LAPD didn't always follow the 
federal lead. Over the years, the LAPD has ignored federal 
immigration laws and chosen not to ask people about their immigration 
status as a way to build a better relationship with the community, she said.

"When we come back with our new regulations, I will be one of those 
who will ask the LAPD to rethink your policy," Hahn said. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake