Drugs: The Club Plants Mock Graves After A Raid By Federal Authorities Shut
It Down Last Week.

The only grass they were growing Monday at the pot club in West
Hollywood was lawn turf.

It was planted over a pair of mock graves in front of the headquarters
of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center--beneath crosses labeled
"Compassion" and "Democracy" that mark the end of a five-year effort
to provide medical marijuana to people who are ill.

Federal drug enforcement agents raided the Santa Monica Boulevard
center five days ago, uprooting 400 marijuana plants, seizing special
indoor growing lights and hauling off computers listing the names and
medical histories of the center's 960 members. The raid has angered
those who claim their health depends on puffing marijuana cigarettes
or munching pot-laced brownies and muffins. It has outraged West
Hollywood city officials who have cultivated good relations with those
cultivating medicinal cannabis.

"I don't know what I'm going to do now," said HIV patient Lawrence
Ornella, 50, who used a cane to hobble up a stairway to the
second-floor office of the cannabis club Monday afternoon.

Gaunt and gray, Ornella is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation
treatments for cancer. "Marijuana gives me an appetite. Otherwise, I
can't eat," the Los Angeles resident said.

Club member Mary Lucey, who has been HIV positive for 15 years, was in
tears as she contemplated permanent closure of the center. "I truly
believe marijuana saved my life," said Lucey, 42, a governmental
policy analyst who lives in Venice. "Panic went through my mind when I
heard about the raid. There are no alternatives for me. I don't want
to find a drug dealer. That's not a useful environment to be in."

Thursday's raid by 30 drug agents was not a total surprise to
operators of the center. They organized the nonprofit,
member-supported cooperative in 1996 when California voters approved
Proposition 215, an initiative that permitted small amounts of
marijuana to be grown for medical purposes.

But the state measure conflicted with federal anti-drug laws. And five
months ago, in a case involving Northern California pot clubs, the
U.S. Supreme Court issued an 8-0 ruling that all but invalidated the
California initiative.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration cited the ruling in the
affidavit for a search warrant for the West Hollywood raid. That
affidavit declared that "illegal conduct permeates the organization's
activities and that all documents, records and equipment present at
the site constitute fruits, instrumentalities or evidence of federal
criminal offenses."

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los
Angeles, said authorities are examining evidence seized and are
"investigating certain individuals in terms of criminal prosecution"
for the marijuana club's activities.

After the six-hour search, workers at the center dug up some of the
dirt from their indoor pot farm and carted it outside to create the
mock cemetery.

"Our dispensary is closed," center President Scott Imler told those
who showed up Monday for their doctor-approved "prescriptions" of
marijuana, which sold for about $50 for an eighth of an ounce. "All
you can do is call your congressman, call your doctor and show up here
next Tuesday for our protest."

The Nov. 6 event would have been a fifth anniversary ceremony for the
center and for passage of Proposition 215.

Instead, it will be a wake staged next to the turf-covered faux
graves. Imler, 43, a former special education teacher from Santa Cruz
who smokes marijuana to control epilepsy-triggered seizures and
cluster headaches, said his center had stricter rules for dispensing
marijuana than similar clubs elsewhere.

The federal agents recognized that and "didn't draw guns or put
anybody in handcuffs. They were polite and didn't tear the place
apart. They know we are good people basically stuck between a bad law
and a hard place," he said.

But Imler criticized the government for using a time of national
crisis for the raid.

"I think it's shameful the Justice Department would waste money going
after medical marijuana while the rest of the world is falling apart.
If they had been doing what we paid them to do, then maybe we'd still
have a World Trade Center."

Operators of the marijuana club said they intentionally kept a high
profile, even to the point of working closely with Los Angeles County
sheriff's officials who provide police protection for West Hollywood.
In 1999, the center registered with the DEA and gave agents a tour of
the building.

Thursday's raid was condemned by West Hollywood officials, including
council members Steve Martin and John Duran, who is the cannabis
club's lawyer.

Newshawk: Write a LTE today! See: http://www.mapinc.org/resource/
Pubdate: Tue, 30 Oct 2001
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Los Angeles Times
Contact: letters@latimes.com
Website: http://www.latimes.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/248
Author: Bob Pool, Times Staff Writer
Note: This article appeared on page 4 of the Valley edition of the
newspaper and on page B-3 of the California section (the editorial section
of the main edition, we understand).
Update: Five days after the raid the L.A. Times finally carried the
following article. Their lack of coverage was one of the actions the
DrugSense Focus Alert 'DEA Sabotages Five Years of Medical Cannabis
Progress!' online at http://www.mapinc.org/alert/0222.html covers. All the
other actions in the Alert are still appropriate. The Alert has more
information on the protest, which is in this report below - but we made an
error on the date - it is Tuesday, 6 November at 5 p.m. at the LA CRC. This
article has a serious error in fact where it states 'But the state measure
conflicted with federal anti-drug laws. And five months ago, in a case
involving Northern California pot clubs, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an
8-0 ruling that all but invalidated the California initiative.' The U.S.
Supreme court ruling did not invalidate the California law. The court only
noted that the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative did not have standing to
make a medical necessity defense, while pointing out that patients
themselves may well have standing. The article at
http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n1074/a04.html makes the point as well
as any. The Times statement, however, is common in the media where it
appears actually reading and understanding the court ruling is not a
requirement. A new constitutional challenge to the law has been filed in
the Ninth Circuit, arguing that the federal government has no authority to
interfere with medical marijuana in California under the interstate
commerce clause, and that the federal law violates the 9th, 10th, and 5th
Amendments. See http://www.druglibrary.org/ocbc/
Bookmarks: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)
http://www.mapinc.org/ocbc.htm (Oakland Cannabis Court Case)