DEA Raids Medical Marijuana Dispensary in San Francisco

This is certainly disappointing news coming so soon after we were assured the Obama administration was going to put an end to this:

Federal agents raided a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco Wednesday, a week after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signaled that the Obama administration would not prosecute distributors of pot used for medicinal purposes that operate under sanction of state law.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided Emmalyn’s California Cannabis Clinic at 1597 Howard St. in San Francisco’s South of Market district mid-afternoon.

They hauled out large plastic bins overflowing with marijuana plants and loaded several pickup trucks parked out front with grow lights and related equipment used to farm the plants indoors.

The dispensary had been operating with a temporary permit issued by the Department of Public Health.

“Based on our investigation, we believe there are not only violations of federal law, but state law as well,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Anthony Williams said in a prepared statement.

Williams, who runs the San Francisco field office that covers a territory stretching from Bakersfield to Redding, would not specify the alleged violations. The information was under court seal.

“As of now, we are prohibited from releasing further details of the case. Items of evidentiary value were seized and no arrests have been made,” Williams said.

A source in San Francisco city government who was informed about the raid said the DEA’s action appeared to be prompted by alleged financial improprieties related to the payment of sales taxes. DEA Special Agent Casey McEnry, spokeswoman for the local office, would not comment on that information.

Perhaps further information will show that this was consistent with Holder’s previous statements but this is still not a good sign.

Incidentally, this came on a day in which Obama had an online town hall which was dominated by questions about marijuana. This could be a sign of how much national interest there is in the topic, or a sign that NORML was successful in getting people to ask desired questions. Obama continued to express opposition to legalization of marijuana.

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  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I have a strong suspicion that this was a case of the DEA doing want it wished to do independent of the people they are supposed to be taking orders from. The statement ‘we believe they were violating state law’ is at odds with the fact that the dispensary was operating under a legal permit. When put on the spot, the cop is trying to cover his ass. I am certain that the DEA command structure in California had the same attitudes it had when Bush was president, regardless of the election of another president.

    The big question is not why the raid happened, but what the Justice Department will do now that it did. Holder’s reaction, and the president’s, will be the real test of their policy on this issue. Not the raid itself.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Operating under a legal permit doesn’t necessarily mean they were not breaking state law. Theoretically they could have a permit to dispense medicinal marijuana but were also selling it to others on the side. We need more information here, but it does raise questions when it occurred so soon after Holder’s statement.

    It is also possible it is DEA people acting on their own. Holdovers from the Bush administration did continue the raids in the initial days of the Obama administration.

  3. 3
    b-psycho says:

    Find out who did it, & fire them.  All of them.  Period.

  4. 4
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I almost suspect deliberate defiance of the new policy, with the excuse of ‘violations of state law’, with the intention of immediately putting President Obama at odds with the DEA. Maybe that is paranoid of me.

    It is a true that a seller with a permit could be selling illegally on the side, but the medical marijuana rules in California are written very loosely. If one is doing legal business under those rules, there is more than enough business to go around. It is relatively easy to buy pot legally, and so the incentive to deal on the side if one is already selling legally is lower. Not impossible, of course, but lower probability.

    If the DEA is challenging the administration, I have to admit that I tend to think b-psycho is on the right track.

  5. 5
    Dan B says:

    It is now Sat. 3/28 and not a word from Obama or Holder. I hope this is not a sign of things to come from President Obama. If we do not hear from them it means they were behind it.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Unfortunately I do not think we will hear anything from either about a specific case, especially while the issue is up in the air. I wouldn’t expect a response under any circumstance and this says nothing about their view on the general issue. As much as I would like to have an immediate answer, we have to wait and see to judge overall how the Obama administration does on this.

    Even if Holder knew about this ahead of time (which is doubtful as it was likely initiated at a lower level) this doesn’t tell us whether this is a contradiction of the terms Holder laid out. He had left open raids if a dispensary is violating state law and we don’t know if this is the case.

  7. 7
    Fritz says:

    It sounds like people hoping for Obama sanity on the drug war may be in for bad news.

    And with marijuana sales central to the drug trade, Mr. Holder said he was exploring ways to lower the minimum amount required for the federal prosecution of possession cases.

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