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Bungled LA DEA Medical Marijuana Raid Raises Troubling Questions


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Yesterday's DEA raid at the Trichome Healing Center medical cannabis dispensary in Van Nuys ended in a stand-down. No arrests were made. An undercover DEA team arrived without a warrant. One agent tried to gain entry with a bad ID, but was turned down. The agent blew his cool, a security guard saw his gun and thought he was a robber; a scuffle broke out, and other agents came to the rescue. After several hours, the DEA procured a warrant from a local judge. The DEA left the scene after midnight, but not before calling in a professional safecracker to clean out the premises. In the meantime, patient advocates were on hand protesting. Degee Coutee called an LAPD operator, who appeared unaware of the raid. LAPD arrived and reassured the crowd that they had a right to protest and take pictures.
Aside from its comic incompetence, this raid raises troubling questions. For the past couple of years, it has typically been DEA policy not to raid medical marijuana dispensaries without support
from the local police. The exception has been when a particular DEA investigation (such as a grow bust) has led them to a dispensary.
It is possible that the DEA were acting in cooperation with rogue elements of the LAPD, such as the North Hollywood narcotics division, who have recently been hassling dispensaries. ( There is an
unconfirmed rumor that officer John Smith of NoHO PD may have been present at the raid.) This could have gone on unbeknownst to the rest of LAPD. It is also possible that DEA had some particular lead that took them to Trichome Healing, but it seems doubtful that they would have used a warrantless undercover investigation of this kind to make the bust.. More disturbing is the possibility that this could be part of a wider DEA undercover operation aimed at
penetrating and taking down the LA dispensaries. It would be a departure from recent policy for DEA to do so without support from local police and without evidence that the dispensaries are
violating Prop. 215. (Note that the DEA were in fact trying to get Trichome Healing to violate 215 by selling without a valid recommendation).
Whatever the truth, it is important the LA area residents organize & respond now to defend patients' access to medicine. Angelenos should call on the city to halt arbitrary police raids and defend safe access by enacting reasonable city regulations to legally license dispensaries, as in West Hollywood and LA County.

PS: In a seemingly unrelated incident, the LAPD raided another patients' collective in Van Nuys at the same time as the Trichome Healing raid. Police cleaned out a storage room rented by the After
Hours Collective, which is not a dispensary but a delivery collective serving over 100 patients. Police might have been tipped off by fire inspectors, who had visited the space earlier and seen some plants growing. Joey Naffah, director of Trichome Healing, says that he let the inspectors in feeling that everything was legal and within SB 420 guidelines. After the police came, they confiscated a score of plants and drilled into the collective's safe to remove a few
pounds of medicine.

Newshawk: Stoner4Life - 420 Magazine
Source: Cal NORML
Pubdate: Thur 31 Aug. 2006
Copyright: 2006 NORML
Contact: Dale Gieringer, canorml@igc.org
Website: California NORML
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