Feds to Continue Raids on Medical Pot in California

Medical marijuana at Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic, located near the edge of the Mission District.Medical marijuana at Emmalyn’s California Cannabis Clinic, located near the edge of the Mission District.The federal government will continue raids on medical marijuana operations in California despite guidelines issued by the Justice Department two weeks ago indicating the contrary.

“I think it’s unfortunate that people have for some reason picked up on this as a change in policy, because it’s really not a change at all,” said Joseph Russoniello, federal prosecutor for the northern district of California, who was appointed in 2007 by then-President George W. Bush.

Asked if federal officials will halt investigation and prosecution of medical marijuana operations in the state, Russoniello said simply, “The short answer is no.”

The city has 23 dispensaries, four of which are in the Mission District, according to the Department of Public Health.

A memo sent Oct. 19 by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to federal prosecutors in California and the other 13 states where medical cannabis is legal stated that law enforcement should focus on major drug trafficking networks, rather than entities “in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws.”

The memo clarified a policy announced by Attorney General Eric Holder in March: Federal officials should desist from raiding and prosecuting state-approved medical marijuana providers.

Less than a week after Holder’s announcement, more than a dozen Drug Enforcement Agency agents raided Emmalyn’s California Cannabis Clinic, a medical marijuana cooperative located near the intersection of 12th and Howard streets on the edge of the Mission District.

“They came in with their guns drawn and pointed them right in our faces like we are criminals,” said Rose, a quiet Filipino woman with rheumatoid arthritis who manages the spotless clinic. “They twisted one of our patient’s arms and put a gun to his head. He was crying. It was so scary.”

The agents confiscated plants and medical cannabis, which were never returned. Nobody was arrested and no charges were ever filed.

The clinic, which has 4,500 registered patients, is a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary that is licensed by the city, Rose said.

It only sells marijuana grown specifically for its patients, all of whom must have a medical marijuana card issued by the state of California and a valid state ID.

Inside the doors of the clinic, meticulously guarded by a polite but stringent doorman, the clinic greets customers with Zen-like simplicity, meditative music and more than 20 strains of pot.

Prices range from $10 per gram for Space Queen to $20 for Super Grape and ChemDog.

Last year, State Attorney General Jerry Brown set guidelines mandating that city dispensaries are legally required to operate as not-for-profit collectives or cooperatives.

That means they can only obtain cannabis from growers that are members of their co-op or collective, and their customers have to be members too.

Russoniello said many dispensaries in San Francisco and around California aren’t really not-for-profit, and he will prosecute any distributor fraudulently operating as a commercial enterprise in violation of state laws.

“By that I mean people who are in it as if they were running a neighborhood candy store instead of running a commune, a collective or a group club that caters only to specific identified persons,” he said.

The DEA operation against Emmalyn’s in March was the only raid that has been conducted in San Francisco in 2009 to date, said DEA spokeswoman Casey Minor.

Asked if federal agents are currently preparing to raid dispensaries suspected of illegal activities, Russoniello declined to comment.

“I cannot affirm or deny the existence of ongoing criminal investigations,” he said.

The statements made by Northern California’s top prosecutor stand in stark contrast to the guarded optimism of many medical pot activists in the city in response to the Justice Department’s recent guidelines.

“You’re going to see a change,” said Mark, who helps run Medithrive, a dispensary on Mission Street that has been open for six weeks and has about 1,100 patients. “There is going to be a new demographic of patients that were worried about the federal aspect.”

That may be true, but Russoniello said it’s a mistake to think recent Justice Department guidelines will mean no more raids.

“Whether people understand that there is a very high risk of detection and prosecution if they are engaged in this business as a commercial enterprise, I don’t know,” he said.

Back at Emmalyn’s, Rose said she is diligently making sure the clinic complies with all state laws, but she’s still fearful federal agents could again show up at her door.

“We just provide medicine for our patients, and we try to be as compassionate as we can,” she said in a soft voice. “Last time was traumatizing. I don’t want to feel that again.”

– Article from Mission [email protected].



  1. Anonymous on

    Why so hostile? Cannabis has been around for thousands of years, its here to stay now get fucking use to it! Its people like you that keep the human race from excelling. You might as well eat a banana and chew on your hair because your acting like a fucking ape. Please don’t spread your stupidity, put your dick away. Ok? Thanks.

  2. TheOGC on

    Check out alex jone’s websites infowars.com and prisonplanet.tv because there’s a war on fer yer mind!

  3. blueridge_bandit on

    i hate the government. no taxation without representation! we the people are not being represented but government policies are. a true democratic nation would take a vote on everything, health care, the (failed) war on drugs (citizens), all policies. we got 4 people who are not doctors, deciding (bribed) what america needs for health care, and we don’t get to vote on it! wtf. the dea are the biggest dam joke ever and we got the “federal” bureau of investigation in afghanistan! we have a constitutional right to revolt against this. revolt!

  4. IHateSnitchs on

    When all it takes is $250, and the littlest problem is acceptable for anyone to get pot you deserve the military style raids the feds bring in to your state. The law should be changed so that only those with a serious illness should be allowed to get marijuana, and not some guy who claims he needs it for a broken finger he got a while back on a construction job like I saw on CNN.

  5. Anonymous on

    ^^^^ The awnser is yes they raided a place in Colorado right after the memo and said they violated state law but wont say which state law HMMMM go fucking figure. Down with the states!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Anonymous on

    Thanks for that post… I looked up 5fdp on youtube and I am now a fan. Gonna go get their cd(s). Thanks again for turning me on to some great tunes!

  7. Anonymous on

    Should read the details a little more clearly….the DOJ memo(a clarification of verbal policy) came just a couple weeks ago, while the raid occured in March. Granted, it was against the verbal policy denoted by Holder, I believe the “Memo” clarified the policy and put it in writing, even if it is just a memo. Have there been any raids since the “Memo” was passed along?

  8. Anonymous on

    Maybe Obama should re-fax that memo. I think they missed it.Seriously though, I think it is nice that there are no dangerous criminals loose out there so they can concentrate manpower and tax money on some sick stoners. Brilliant use of our tax money yet again!

  9. An appropriate song on

    “Death Before Dishonor”
    Five Finger Death Punch

    To the haters, the takers, the liars, all the vultures and the bottom feeding scum
    The FCC, the FBI and every tin god with a badge and a gun
    You talk and talk, you preach and bitch but your words don’t mean a thing
    You get what you give, you give what you get
    Just the way it’s always been

    I choose death before dishonor
    I’d rather die than live down on my knees
    Bury me like a soldier, with my dignity!

    You imitate the ostracized, put your head beneath the sand
    Your cup it runneth over, must be rough to live so grand
    You reap what you sew, you pay what you owe unless you bathe yourself in greed
    You rob and you take, your world is fake
    There’s no honor amongst the thieves

    I choose death before dishonor
    I’d rather die than live down on my knees
    Bury me like a soldier, with my dignity!

    You’re self righteous, self pretentious
    Your ways are not for me
    You’re deluded, so confused
    Your world I dominate

    I choose death before dishonor
    I’d rather die than live down on my knees
    Bury me like a soldier…

    Bury me! (Bury me!)
    Bury me! (Bury me!)
    Bury me!

    With my dignity!

  10. Worm on

    Our current conservative government is trying to make tougher pot laws and longer jail time, you at least are moving forward while we slip back.


  11. Joe on

    When I read the memo that was released, I kind of had the feeling that this really changed absolutely nothing. It might allow other states that are considering medical cannabis a chance to really look at offering it to their citizens. Other than that there is still no change to the current situation. The only hope we really have is to change cannabis to schedule 2 or H.R. 2835 Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act which would protect medical patients. There is a couple of other bills in committee that would be helpful, but given the governmental environment today they won’t even be considered. The memo was a bad joke. We need our politicians to step up and help us here on this issue, if not we do not need to vote for them. I am writing a letter to my elected officials to share my disgust on this issue, I hope all my fellow Americans are doing the same.

  12. Anonymous on

    The United States politicians need to pay attention to what happened over in Afghanistan. The U.S. kept sending people in to tear down fields of poor farmers and pushed them right into the hands of militant groups. The farmers weren’t generally violent but felt they needed protection from the U.S. government. So they asked for help and protection from the only people who were willing to offer it — the Taliban. Things got so bad that the U.S. pulled out and stopped going after the poppy growers.

    The U.S. politicians are making statements and then the enforcers keep on with “business as usual”. There is only so long people will put up with that sort of deception and oppression. Subject sick people to military-style invasions and raids involving loaded weapons & fear tactics…stealing their money and equipment… after a while the enforcers will push most of the nice people out and push others toward seeking protection from groups they normally wouldn’t associate with.

    California is known for its entrenched gang activities. Do the people of California want peaceful, tax-paying people selling marijuana or gangs such as the Mexican Mafia and Nuestra Familia mixed up in things?

    Arnold Schwarzenegger will be releasing around 40,000 non-violent offenders in the next 2 years as part of a court-mandated prison reduction order — the prisons are almost 200% their rated capacity. The released people will be looking for work and as of Oct 21,2009 the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) puts California near the top for highest unemployment rates in the U.S.

    The people of California are allowing their police and politicians to put them in a very bad spot — the govt officials need to stop messing with marijuana dispensaries and focus on things like getting people jobs, giving people reasons to stay out of gangs, improving education opportunities, providing clean water, producing reliable electricity, etc.

  13. Anonymous on

    You sound kind of confused… do you know what NORML or LEAP stands for?

  14. peopleforthepeople on

    We can never stop this unless we get off their payroll, our little allowence we get to buy things that the governement has provided for our entertainment. we as a human population are sacrificing to much for the little comforts they give us, mostly fear and then tough love rinse and repeat, imagine getting paid under the table ALL THE TIME like it should be. We need to make our own goods and sell them in our own communtities, keep every cent we work for, start using hemp, deconstruct the things we have built to make the Earth hurt, reinvent transportation and start creating energy that doesnt cause cancer. Please hear the call, they can’t do this to us forever, people will see. Babylon will fall!

    “You can fool some people sometimes, but you cant fool all the people all the time” – Peter Tosh

  15. Anonymous on

    ….and….it’s quite normal for an organization like NORML…to collaborate with the cops (LEAP)..in the continued efforts toward marijuana legalization.
    Hey kiddo! what side are you? You better make up your mind.
    Thats why I think an organization like NORML is simply an ABNORML phenomena

  16. Frustrated With LYING Government on

    Oh lord, the US Government is about as full of shit as an overflowing Porta-Potty. How the hell do they expect the citizens of the USA, let alone the rest of the world, to take ANYTHING WHATSOEVER that the lying, cheating, screwing, thieving bastards say or do as factual, true or honest???

    I’ve never, in my entire life, seen a more deceptive, corrupt, full-of-shit group of people. Period. Bar none.

    I am embarrassed to say that I’m from the USA with imbeciles like them “leading”/”running” this country.

    Shame on them. May they all burn in Hell for eternity.