Pubdate: Fri, 10 Feb 2012
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2012 SF Newspaper Company LLC
Author: Chris Roberts


The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has asked The City's 
Department of Public Health to turn over records for 12 of San 
Francisco's remaining 21 medical cannabis dispensaries, according to 
emails obtained by The San Francisco Examiner.

On Jan. 18 and again Jan. 27, Special Agent David White of the DEA's 
financial investigative team sent emails to the health department 
asking for business licenses, health permits, ownership information 
and yearly inspection forms for the 12 dispensaries.

Last year, White requested information on five other San Francisco 
dispensaries, issuing a subpoena to obtain private information not 
normally released via a records request. The landlords of those 
dispensaries then received letters from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, 
who warned of property forfeiture and 40-year prison terms unless the 
dispensaries shut down.

All five dispensaries closed, though two have since become 
delivery-only services.

Health department Deputy Director Colleen Chawla said her agency 
complied with the DEA's most recent request.

White did not respond to a request for comment. Agent Casey McEnry, a 
DEA spokeswoman, said the agency only comments on cases actively in the courts.

On Oct. 7, the four U.S. attorneys for California announced a 
coordinated, statewide crackdown on what they called the "medical 
marijuana industry." Since then, hundreds of dispensaries have 
closed, mostly in Sacramento and San Diego counties. Five have closed 
in San Francisco, and one in Marin.

Stephanie Tucker, a spokeswoman for The City's Medical Cannabis Task 
Force, is concerned by the prospect of 12 more dispensaries closing.

"It's a clear indication that Melinda Haag is not using the 
discretion of her office to go after bad players as stated at her 
October 2011 press conference," Tucker told The SF Examiner on 
Thursday. "Instead, they are targeting the regulated community who 
operate with a permit, in compliance with state and local laws, 
transparently and in good standing with The City and their community."

Medical marijuana advocates also are rankled by what they call 
inaction taken by city leaders.

In 2008, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom sent a letter to members of Congress 
asking them to intervene in the DEA's "undermin[ing] of California's 
state medical marijuana laws." Newsom's successor, Mayor Edwin Lee, 
has yet to comment on the crackdown publicly, and on Thursday he did 
not respond to requests for comment on the health department emails.

The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in support of 
dispensaries in the fall, but has not taken action since.

"There's a definite void in leadership here," Assemblyman Tom 
Ammiano, D-San Francisco, told The SF Examiner on Thursday, adding 
that federal law enforcement is "undermining the will of the voters" 
encapsulated in Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana for 
medicinal use when it passed in 1996.

"I understand this is a radioactive issue for some people, but too 
bad -- it's the law of the land," Ammiano said.

There were 26 dispensaries in San Francisco in October. After The 
City briefly suspended its permitting process, the Planning 
Commission is scheduled to hear applications for two new dispensaries 
at its meeting next week.

San Francisco was the first city in California to license and 
regulate medical marijuana dispensaries under its Medical Cannabis 
Act, which became law in 2005. Much of The City's regulations are 
stricter than what is allowed under state law.

Dispensaries pay local and state sales taxes. The health department 
inspects them once a year to ensure that they comply with city and 
state laws. All of San Francisco's dispensaries were found to be in 
compliance during the most recent inspections.

Open and shut

Last month, the DEA asked city officials for information on 12 of San 
Francisco's remaining 21 medical cannabis dispensaries. They are:

Good Fellows Smoke Shop, 473 Haight St.

Re-Leaf Herbal Center, 1284 Mission St.

The Green Cross, 1230 Market St.

Grass Roots, 1077 Post St.

Emmalyn's, 1597-A Howard St.

Bay Area Safe Alternatives Collective, 1326 Grove St.

SF Medical Cannabis Club, 120 10th St.

Waterfall Wellness, 1545 Ocean Ave.

Hope Net, 223 Ninth St.

Valencia Street Caregivers, 208 Valencia St.

Vapor Room, 607A Haight St.

Shambala Healing Center, 2441 Mission St.

Last year, the DEA made similar requests for information on five 
other dispensaries. Those dispensaries then closed after receiving 
threatening letters from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. Those dispensaries were:

Mr Nice Guy, 174 Valencia St.

Divinity Tree Wellness Co-op, 958 Geary St.

Medithrive, 1933 Mission St.

Market Street Collective, 1884 Market St.

Sanctuary, 669 O'Farrell St.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom