Source: Los Angeles Independent
Calif. -- Medical marijuana activists have denounced a raid on a Los Angeles cannabis clinic where police arrested two workers and seized 200 pounds of packaged marijuana as well as $180,000 in cash. Police said that they entered the United Medical Caregivers Clinic on Tuesday, March 15, at around 3 p.m. after receiving a resident’s complaint about people smoking marijuana joints along Wilshire Boulevard and Muirfield Avenue, not far from the location of the clinic.
According to investigators, police obtained a search warrant and confiscated large amounts of packaged marijuana and currency after discovering that the cannabis club had no legal permit or license to sell the drug.
Two clinic staff members were arrested on felony charges of possession of marijuana for sale and released on a $20,000 bail per person the next day.
“At this given time of our investigation, the clinic was operating an illegal business, engaging in the illegal sale of marijuana,” said Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Eric Davis of the Wilshire Division, who is handling the case.
“If we see a crime being committed, we can’t turn around and walk away from it.”
Citing the case as an ongoing investigation, Davis declined to comment on whether others, such as clinic owner Scott Fiel might face similar felony drug charges.
But supporters of medical marijuana laws have defended the integrity of the clinic and its operators and denounced the raid as a form of police harassment.
“There is nothing that condones this behavior,” said Kris Hermes, legal director of Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based group that advocates medical marijuana use. “It is not acceptable for state or local law enforcement to go in and raid dispensaries, let alone arrest its operators and seize their property.”
“According to Fiel, the cannabis clinic, located on 4520 Wilshire Blvd., serves around 15,000 people living with cancer, HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses.
In a Monday phone interview, Councilman Martin Ludlow said he did not know a police raid had taken place and needed to learn more details of the incident.
“This is the first I am hearing of this,” said Ludlow, who oversees the 10th District. “I haven’t made up my mind as to what I am going to do now, but I would like to get a briefing from Wilshire law enforcement and look at the issues they have raised.”
Fiel, who was in Northern California at the time of the raid, flew down to Los Angeles the following day and bailed out his two employees.
Since its closure, the clinic has been operating at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rossmore Avenue for three months after its relocation from West Hollywood to Los Angeles in early January.
State law allows the distribution and sale of marijuana for medical use since the passage of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, where California voters overwhelming approved the use of the drug for medical use.
However, clinic employees said their attempts at explaining to police about their right to sell medical marijuana fell on deaf ears.
Two days after the police raid, visitors were surprised to see an empty waiting room which is usually filled to capacity.
“I cannot understand it at all. Who in California wouldn’t know about Prop. 215?” said Michael, a patient who declined to provide his last name for fear of police harassment.
He said he was distressed by the temporary closure of the clinic which has provided him with marijuana as a painkiller ever since he was involved in car accident several years ago.
“It is our medicine,” he said.
Some patients picked up copies of fliers on information about the state’s medical marijuana laws, with one flier asking patients to contact city officials such as Mayor James Hahn and City Councilmen Antonio Villaraigosa and Martin Ludlow about the raid.
Fiel and other medical marijuana activists say they are hopeful that drug charges against the two staffers will be dropped.
Activists added that cities, such as West Hollywood, that are drafting regulations for cannabis clubs, are taking steps in the right direction to protect them from future drug enforcement raids.
“We have nothing to hide,” said Fiel, who also runs a cannabis club in Ukiah, Calif. “Regulations are good.”
Hilary McQuie, spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access, said the recent LAPD raid was an example of how “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”
“The police said they were getting them on marijuana sales for not having the right license or permit, but county and cities need to first set up regulations because there are no obvious categories for these dispensaries to operate,” McQuie said. “There is no reason to arrest them for not having a type of permit that doesn’t exist.”
Source: Los Angeles Independent (CA)
Author: Rosanna Mah, The Independent Staff Writer
Published: March 23, 2005
Copyright: 2005 Los Angeles Independent Newspaper Group
Link to article: http://www.cannabisn...read20396.shtml