Federal Agents Search Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, Homes
Federal agents on Wednesday raided three medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco and searched about 20 residences, businesses and marijuana growing sites, making multiple arrests in the first federal action against dispensaries since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case Gonzales V. Raich earlier this month, the New York Times reports (Murphy, New York Times, 6/23). The searches were part of "a more than two-year investigation into an alleged marijuana trafficking ring," according to the AP/San Jose Mercury News (Thompson, AP/ San Jose Mercury News, 6/23).
Twenty people were charged in an indictment federal authorities said they planned to unseal Thursday. Thirteen people were in San Francisco County jail as of Wednesday night and were to appear in federal court on Thursday, San Francisco sheriff's officials said.
The raids were part of an investigation into an alleged organized crime operation in which medical marijuana dispensaries were used as fronts for money laundering, authorities said. The operation included at least 10 warehouses where marijuana was grown in large quantities and involved millions of dollars, law enforcement officials said (Van Derbeken et al., San Francisco Chronicle, 6/23).
In a separate investigation, a physician and her husband were arrested at their home in Greenwood and pleaded not guilty in federal court in Sacramento to charges of distributing and manufacturing at least 100 marijuana plants (New York Times, 6/23).
The couple is accused of growing and distributing the marijuana from their business, the California Medical Research Center, from August 1999 to September 2001 (USA Today, 6/23). The June 15 indictment "had long been anticipated," according to the Sacramento Bee. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in 2001 raided the research center, the couple's home and a storage facility (Walsh, Sacramento Bee, 6/23).
According to court documents, the physician wrote a medical marijuana recommendation for an undercover DEA agent, and her husband provided the marijuana, although there was "lack of a medical record" to warrant such a recommendation (New York Times, 6/23). They each pleaded not guilty and were released on $25,000 in unsecured bonds, the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 6/23). More details are expected in a news conference Thursday (USA Today, 6/23).
In other medical marijuana news, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to extend the county's ban on new medical marijuana clubs until May 16, 2006. Supervisors in May approved a 45-day ban with the intention of extending it, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports (Soper, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 6/22).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.