HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Arrests Follow Searches in Medical Marijuana Raids
Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jun 2005
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2005 The New York Times Company
Author: Dean E. Murphy
Cited: Americans for Safe Access
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - California)


San Francisco - Federal agents executed search warrants at three medical 
marijuana dispensaries on Wednesday as part of a broad investigation into 
marijuana trafficking in San Francisco, setting off fears among medical 
marijuana advocates that a federal crackdown on the drug's use by sick 
people was beginning.

About 20 residences, businesses and growing sites were also searched, 
leading to multiple arrests, a law enforcement official said. Agents 
outside a club in the Ingleside neighborhood spent much of the afternoon 
dragging scores of leafy marijuana plants into an alley and stuffing them 
into plastic bags.

"The investigation led the authorities to these sites," the law enforcement 
official said. "It involves large-scale marijuana trafficking and includes 
other illicit drugs and money laundering."

In a separate investigation, a federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted a 
doctor and her husband on charges of distributing marijuana at the doctor's 
office in Cool, a small town in El Dorado County.

The doctor, Marion P. Fry, and her husband, Dale C. Schafer, were arrested 
at their home in nearby Greenwood and pleaded not guilty in federal court 
in Sacramento to charges of distributing and manufacturing at least 100 
marijuana plants. The authorities said in a court document that Dr. Fry 
wrote a recommendation for medical marijuana to an undercover agent from 
the Drug Enforcement Administration even though there was a "lack of a 
medical record," and that her husband provided the agent with marijuana.

The raids and arrests were the first large-scale actions against marijuana 
clubs and providers since the Supreme Court upheld federal authority over 
marijuana on June 6, even in states like California, where its use for 
medicinal purposes has been legal since 1996. The raids involved agents 
from federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the 
Internal Revenue Service and the Secret Service.

"We will not turn a blind eye to serious and flagrant disregard of federal 
law," Gordon Taylor, an assistant special agent in charge of Drug 
Enforcement Administration office in Sacramento, said in a statement. 
"There may be those who think we can disregard the court and Congress. 
D.E.A. will not be among them."

The raids angered and alarmed advocates of medical marijuana, some of whom 
stood on the sidewalk outside the clubs in San Francisco as federal agents 
worked inside.

"This is an affront to patients and should not be happening," Kris Hermes, 
legal director of Americans for Safe Access, a marijuana advocacy group, 
said outside a storefront club that nearby residents said was used to grow 
marijuana not distribute it.

Mr. Hermes said he could not say if the raids were a result of the Supreme 
Court ruling, but called it "unacceptable" that federal agents were 
accompanied by the San Francisco police because the city several years ago 
declared itself "a safe haven" for medical marijuana users.

Several blocks away, agents seized computer records, medical files and 
marijuana plants at the Herbal Relief Center on Ocean Avenue. A security 
gate across the entrance had been pulled open, and a lock lay cut open on 
the sidewalk.

"They came here before we even opened," said Van Nguyen, 27, who said the 
dispensary had been in operation about five years and had the records of 
several thousand patients.

A spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department, Sgt. Neville Gittens, 
said in a statement that its officers "did not take part in any 
investigation of these clubs or take any enforcement action against these 

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, many cities, including San Francisco, 
had begun to crack down on the clubs, which have proliferated in recent 
years and generally operate without regulation.

Though the authorities would not say how the three clubs raided in San 
Francisco were tied to the accusations of drug trafficking, the police in 
San Francisco have complained that some of the 40 or so clubs in the city 
are little more than fronts for drug dealers.

Ross Mirkarimi, a San Francisco County supervisor who favors the use of 
marijuana for medical purposes but wants the city to regulate the clubs 
strictly, said the raids reinforced the need for oversight.

"We do not want bad apples to ruin something that Californians and San 
Franciscans overwhelmingly voted for and support," Mr. Mirkarimi said.

Peter Ragone, a spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom, said the federal 
investigation reinforced the importance of "trying to protect the 
legitimate uses of medicinal marijuana in the state." 
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