Thursday, May 8, 2008

Legislator asks DEA to explain pot club raids

Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, May 8, 2008

(05-07) 17:40 PDT WASHINGTON -- A congressional leader, citing
complaints from Bay Area mayors and lawmakers, wants the Drug
Enforcement Administration to explain its increased use of
"paramilitary-style enforcement raids" and property forfeiture orders
against medical marijuana patients and suppliers in California.

With drug trafficking and violence from international cartels on the
rise, "do you think the DEA's limited resources are best utilized
conducting enforcement raids on individuals and their caregivers who
are conducting themselves legally under California law?" House
Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said in a letter
to the agency.

He also noted the DEA's recent tactic of sending letters to hundreds
of property owners who rent to medical marijuana dispensaries,
advising them that they could be prosecuted and lose their property
under federal law.

Property forfeitures, Conyers said, have typically been reserved for
"the worst drug traffickers and kingpins" and might have the
unintended effect of driving medical marijuana distribution
underground. Medical marijuana advocacy groups say the letters have
led to evictions and closures of dozens of supply shops that had been
operating with state and local approval.

The congressman also asked how much the DEA was spending on the raids.

The letter, dated April 29, was addressed to the DEA's acting
administrator, Michele Leonhart. Agency spokeswoman Rogene Waite
declined to comment on the questions Wednesday, saying only that "the
federal government does not recognize medical marijuana. ... The DEA,
of course, would be part of the federal government."

Conyers attached a copy of a resolution approved by San Francisco
supervisors in February, attacking the DEA for "its irrational policy
and hysteria" and calling on the city attorney to support property
owners facing prosecution or forfeiture for renting to medical
marijuana dispensaries. The Los Angeles City Council also has
condemned the federal agency's actions.

Conyers also cited statements by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums criticizing the DEA, and a resolution
introduced by state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, urging that
Congress pass a law ending federal raids and prosecutions in states
that have legalized medical marijuana.

E-mail Bob Egelko at

This article appeared on page A - 10 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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