Drug Enforcement Agents Target California Marijuana Clubs
In the last month, the Bush administration has begun its first "major crackdown" on distribution of medical marijuana, raiding the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center and a marijuana garden run by patients, as well as seizing files from a doctor and a lawyer who recommended the drug to patients, the New York Times reports (Winter, New York Times, 10/31). Last week, 30 federal drug enforcement agents raided the Los Angeles marijuana club, "uprooting" 400 marijuana plants, removing growing equipment and seizing files with the names and records of 960 clients. California's voter initiative, Proposition 215, permits the sale of small amounts of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Still, the center's operators expected to be shut down because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, is illegal (Pool, Los Angeles Times, 10/30). The recent actions have not resulted in any criminal charges as of yet. Susan Dryden, a Justice Department spokesperson, said, "The recent enforcement is indicative that we have not lost our priorities in other areas since Sept. 11. The attorney general and the administration have been very clear: We will be aggressive."
The raids have "enraged" local officials, the New York Times reports. Steve Martin, a West Hollywood City Council member, said, "This was a serious effort to provide relief for people who were ill. The Bush administration is forcing sick people to become criminals." Peter Warren, a California Medical Association spokesperson, said of the seizure of medical records, "Federal and state law enforcement authorities have no business interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. It's especially shocking in this time of national crisis that federal agents are out there tossing doctors' offices." Why federal agents have targeted California instead of one of the other seven states that have passed voter initiatives allowing medical marijuana is not clear, the New York Times reports. Local politicians and advocates have said that California is a "natural target for enforcement" because it has "far more" marijuana clubs than other states and many more patients purchasing the drug (New York Times, 10/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.