LOCAL

DEA raids 10 pot shops

The gap between state and federal drug laws became apparent again Wednesday when federal agents raided 10 local medical marijuana facilities only minutes after the Los Angeles City Council placed a moratorium on new facilities so rules could be drafted to better regulate them.

The ban is for one year, but the council can extend it for another year.

The city move was widely applauded by medical marijuana activists who believe that having a solid set of rules will help prevent future city crackdowns and ensure that dispensaries remain open.

But state or local laws have no effect on federal activities.

Although voters in California approved the use of medical marijuana in 1996 and said users should not be subject to criminal prosecution, it remains illegal under federal law to possess, sell or cultivate marijuana and neither the federal nor state courts have resolved the matter.

Drug Enforcement Administration officers served a search warrant on facilities across Los Angeles County, including the California Patients Group in Hollywood, said DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen. The timing of the raid was not intended to coincide with the council vote, she said.

"These are ongoing enforcement operations. As far as we know, we've been planning this for some time," Pullen said.

The Los Angeles Police Department was on hand to patrol the perimeter, as it often does as a courtesy to federal agencies.

LAPD officers arrested five people demonstrating outside the California Patients Group dispensary, Lt. Ruben De La Torre said. Four of the arrests were for blocking a DEA vehicle and failing to comply with orders from a police officer to move. The other arrest was for vandalizing a police car.

Don Duncan, operator of the Hollywood dispensary, was the first activist to testify at Wednesday's council meeting. He also is a board member of Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana group.

"It's disgusting that sick people would be subjected to this right here in Los Angeles," Duncan said.

Pullen said that although medical marijuana was legalized by state voters, the DEA has been enforcing federal laws. The agency has ramped up efforts recently because the number of dispensaries has grown to more than 400 in Los Angeles County and the surrounding area, she said.

The DEA and other agencies earlier this month issued indictments against six men, alleging that they participated in selling marijuana at dispensaries throughout the state, including two such stores in West Hollywood.

In response to a request from the council, the office of City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo reported earlier this year that at least 98 dispensaries are in Los Angeles, although some activists believe there are more.

The report also found that 12 dispensaries were near schools or day-care centers.

City Councilman Dennis Zine said the temporary ban was designed to protect patients' rights while drawing up rules to protect communities where dispensaries are located.

Several dozen medical marijuana activists attended the council meeting to support the temporary ban. No one spoke against it.

Activist Sarah Armstrong said that she often has to travel from her home in Ventura County to Los Angeles to obtain medical marijuana to help relieve pain from arthritis she said was the result of a 1989 car crash.

Cities and police agencies in Ventura County and others in Southern California have been far less tolerant of the dispensaries, which is why most in the region are in L.A. County.

--

steve.hymon@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Marijuana

    SEARCHING FOR A SMILE Young Bell's palsy patient is smiling on the inside Culver City fifth-grader Kiana Deane tries to help her classmates understand the science behind her limited self-expression -- and struggles to come to terms with her own brand of beauty. By Denise Gellene, Times Staff Writer.

  • Santa Monica's ban on park Nativity displays upheld
    Santa Monica's ban on park Nativity displays upheld

    Santa Monica’s long battle over Christmas-season Nativity scenes at Palisades Park ended Thursday when a conservative federal appeals court panel upheld a city law that bars unattended exhibits.

  • Smartphone app from ACLU of California aims to preserve videos of police
    Smartphone app from ACLU of California aims to preserve videos of police

    When George Holliday recorded grainy footage of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King outside his apartment in 1991, he sold the video to KTLA for $500 and watched it become a worldwide sensation. This year, a man used his cellphone to record a fatal LAPD shooting on skid row and uploaded...

  • Judge halts Millennium Hollywood skyscraper project
    Judge halts Millennium Hollywood skyscraper project

    A judge on Thursday halted a developer’s plan to build two massive skyscrapers in the heart of Hollywood, ruling that the city of Los Angeles failed to fully assess how the $1-billion project would affect surrounding neighborhoods.

  • L.A. Port police chief indicted in alleged fraud scheme
    L.A. Port police chief indicted in alleged fraud scheme

    The chief of police at the nation's busiest container port was indicted Thursday on federal corruption charges that accuse him of hiding his business links to a software developer he was helping win a contract at the port.

  • DWP trusts paid for steak dinners, trips to Hawaii, Las Vegas, audits find
    DWP trusts paid for steak dinners, trips to Hawaii, Las Vegas, audits find

    Two nonprofit trusts created by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and financed with more than $40 million from ratepayers paid millions to vendors without competitive bids, overpaid top managers and let them charge personal travel, gasoline and other items without filing expense reports,...

Comments
Loading