420 Magazine Background

San Mateo Raid Shuts Down Medical Marijuana Outlets

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
In the largest Bay Area raid of medical marijuana dispensaries in nearly a year, federal agents stormed three medical cannabis outlets in downtown San Mateo Wednesday afternoon and shut them down.

The DEA, accompanied by members of the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force and the San Mateo Police Department, seized 50 pounds of processed marijuana, hashish, cannabis-laced edibles and approximately $30,000 in cash, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice. No arrests were reported.

The raids occurred in the middle of the afternoon, and the three dispensaries were located in busy, commercial districts of the city - including one site in an office building in the city's commercial center on Third Avenue.

"A bunch of guys with drawn guns dropped into the building and bashed the door down, shock-and-awe style," said Josh Snyder, an employee of an Internet start-up in the Third Avenue office building.

A DEA spokesperson refused to identify the dispensaries, and the search warrants issued for the raids remain under seal, but the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) lists on its Web site three San Mateo dispensaries: Patients Choice Resource Cooperative, at 164 South Blvd.; Peninsula Patients Local Option, at 397 S. Claremont St.; and MHT, at 60 E. Third Ave.

All three dispensaries were reportedly raided, according to Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy group. A fourth dispensary named Holistic Solutions closed voluntarily as a result of the raids, he added.

Federal agents did not say whether the raided dispensaries had violated the state's medical marijuana laws. However, they were all "in violation of federal law," said Cmdr. Mark Wyss of the county's Narcotics Task Force.

The use of medical marijuana with the recommendation of a doctor is legal in California under Proposition 215, passed by state voters in 1996. In San Mateo County, 66 percent voted in favor of the measure.

However, federal law prohibits the possession of cannabis, and the city of San Mateo does not have local regulations pertaining to the distribution of medical marijuana.

According to NORML, which says it only lists dispensaries compliant with state and local marijuana laws on its Web site, the raided dispensaries had not violated state law.

Medical marijuana advocates and law enforcement officials said the raids essentially wiped out the county's medical marijuana dispensaries.

"Of course, that's going to impact access for the patients who live in San Mateo and surrounding areas," said Hermes. "You're talking about the vast majority or all of the facilities in a particular region."

That the DEA would devastate one county's supply of medical marijuana is not "unprecedented," Hermes said. Last year, federal agents raided two dispensaries in Stanislaus County, which essentially cut off patients' access in that region.

"The federal government has been coming in and undermining the state's medical marijuana law," Hermes said. "There is an unrelenting amount of harassment currently going on by the federal government."

Hermes called the DEA's collaboration with San Mateo police and Narcotics Task Force "very distressing."

San Mateo City Councilman Brandt Grotte said that he was not aware that local police were working with federal agents on a nine-month investigation of the city's medical marijuana dispensaries.

"If it turns out that the activities that were being undertaken (at the dispensaries) were in compliance with the state law, then I would prefer that police were not involved locally, aside from being informed the raids were occurring.

"I have a lot of compassion for people who are suffering," said Grotte. "If they're in cancer treatment or something like that, I honestly believe that (marijuana) can have therapeutic value."

Outside the shuttered dispensaries in San Mateo on Wednesday afternoon, that seemed to be the prevailing view among the eyewitnesses to the raids.

Michael Gilbert was standing across the street from the Patients Choice Resource Cooperative when "the DEA just came down like a ton of bricks," he said - an operation he emphatically disagreed with.

"I don't smoke dope," said Gilbert, "but that's what I think."

The last large-scale raids of Bay Area medical marijuana dispensaries by the DEA came in October 2006, when federal agents stormed about a half-dozen locations in San Francisco and Oakland, seizing about 13,000 plants and arresting 15 people.

News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Author: Michael Manekin
Contact: San Jose Mercury News - Home
Copyright: 2007 San Jose Mercury News
Website: San Mateo raid shuts down medical marijuana outlets – The Mercury News
Top Bottom