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Medical Marijuana Advocates Protest Shutdown Of Three San Mateo Clubs


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Medical marijuana patients and advocates, upset over the federal raid and closing of three medical cannabis dispensaries in downtown San Mateo last week, are asking city officials for help.

The advocates - among them the operators and patients of the three raided dispensaries - urged city council members to adopt a resolution that would regulate the distribution of medical marijuana in the city and another resolution prohibiting local law enforcement from cooperating with the DEA on actions against medical marijuana.

The raids, conducted with the assistance of the city's police department and the county's narcotics task force, caused the closure of the county's three primary medical cannabis dispensaries and a fourth one followed suit.

The operations were the result of a nine-month investigation with the Sheriff's Office and federal agents, authorities said. Medical marijuana advocates have sharply criticized the participation of local authorities in the federal investigation.

"We do not want to see our local tax revenues wasted on paying our local law enforcement to aid in federal raids when there has been no violation of state law," said Brent Saupe, a San Mateo resident and a volunteer with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), an Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy group.

The use of medical marijuana with the recommendation of a doctor is legal in California under Proposition 215, passed by state voters in 1996.

However, federal law does not acknowledge that cannabis can be used for medical purposes.

The district attorney's office was pursuing legal action against one of the dispensaries last year, but ultimately made the decision to bring in federal authorities, according to officials.

The prospect of a lengthy and costly court battle influenced the decision to involve the DEA, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe acknowledged last week. While local law enforcement officers insist that the dispensaries operated outside of the state's medical marijuana laws, operators from each of the three raided dispensaries denied on Tuesday they had violated state law.

The district attorney's decision to involve the DEA was unfair, said Kris Hermes of ASA. That's because the operators - if prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice - will have difficulty defending themselves in federal court, where the legality of medical marijuana is not acknowledged, he said.

At Tuesday's meeting, medical marijuana advocates reminded city officials of the broad support for controlled use of cannabis in the county, pointing out that 66 percent of county voters who voted for Proposition 215, the "Compassionate Use Act" that legalized medical marijuana in the state more than a decade ago.

In all, about a dozen advocates for medical marijuana spoke during the meeting.

But City Manager Arne Croce reaffirmed what he said last week about the dispensaries - "that these businesses were all operating in a way that ... by no stretch of the imagination were operating within the law."

San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer said outside the meeting that state law, which allows for medical marijuana patients and providers to open cooperatives, does not permit "storefront, entrepreneurial, drug trafficking enterprises."

Both Croce and Manheimer agreed that the county must develop an ordinance that could better regulate medical marijuana. In fact, Croce said, Supervisor Jerry Hill had met with the district attorney's office on Tuesday to discuss the prospect of countywide regulation.

However, District Attorney James Fox said Tuesday that local regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries is not feasible. The state regulates medical marijuana and any attempts to regulate cannabis must be made on the state level, he explained.

"If people want to change the law, then they have to deal with Sacramento," Fox said. "It's unrealistic to expect the City Council to address (medical marijuana) because they can't change the state law. The board of supervisors can't address the state law."

That opinion was echoed by San Mateo City Attorney Shawn Mason, who urged the advocates at the meeting that "if (they) feel strongly about medical marijuana, they need to talk to their state legislators."

However, one needn't change state law necessary to regulate medical marijuana, said Kris Hermes of ASA.

"You don't need to go to Sacramento,"he said. "There are plenty of examples of cities and counties around the state that have grappled with this issue and resolved it in a very effective way."

Twenty six cities and eight counties across the state have adopted such ordinances, including Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley, according to the ASA. When local government takes regulation into its own hands, medical marijuana patients have access to medicine and communities benefit from decreased street sales of marijuana and less crime in the vicinity of dispensaries, according to a recent study by the group.

"Medical marijuana dispensaries can be a positive part of our community," Brent Saupe, of ASA told city officials. "The Council ought to be supporting efforts to develop regulations that provide safe and legal access to medical cannabis so patients aren't forced to access medicine in illegitimate places - rather than restricting it further."

News Mod: CoZmO - 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Author: Michael Manekin
Contact: mmanekin@sanmateocountytimes.com
Copyright: 2007 San Jose Mercury News
Website: Medical marijuana advocates protest shutdown of three San Mateo clubs – The Mercury News


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Local pigs getting in with the feds no way keep growing we passed 215 we will not stop till they (fed laws) leave us alone with our meds!!!!!! Great news report A+++++++++ ebay style
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