DEA raids pot clinics in L.A. County, irking local officials
LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided 10 medical marijuana clinics Wednesday, the same day city leaders introduced a measure calling for an end to the federal government’s crackdown on the dispensaries.
Federal officials arrested five people for investigation of marijuana distribution after serving clinics in and around the city’s Hollywood area with search warrants, said DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen. Those arrested included clinic owners and managers, though no patients. Large quantities of marijuana and cash also were seized.
It was the agency’s second-largest raid on pot dispensaries, and came as the Los Angeles City Council introduced an interim ordinance calling on federal authorities to stop targeting pot clinics allowed under state law. A final vote on the ordinance was scheduled next week.
Pullen said the timing of Wednesday’s bust and the city’s action was “purely coincidental.”
Federal and local governments have clashed over the dispensaries ever since California voters approved medical marijuana sales in 1996. The drug remains illegal under federal law.
Councilman Dennis Zine, who earlier in the day wrote a letter to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy asking the agency to stop the raids, called the federal agents “bullies.”
“I think it’s more than a coincidence, the raids today,” he said. “They’re trying to bully us. Instead of using resources to go after drug dealers ruining neighborhoods and poisoning school kids, they’re going after individuals dying of cancer and suffering from AIDS who need cannabis to have any type of appetite.”
The DEA has maintained the clinics are distribution points for illegal drugs and earn their owners big profits.
Zine said he and the council support a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher R-Huntington Beach that calls for withholding funding for DEA raids on medical marijuana clinics.
The proposal also would prohibit new clinics from opening until the city finds a way to better regulate its more than 100 dispensaries. The clinics are largely unregulated, which Zine and others said invites illegal pot use and sales.
The council proposed Wednesday requiring existing dispensaries to obtain a city tax registration certificate, a seller’s permit, a property lease, business insurance, proof of dispensary membership and a county health permit within 60 days.
DEA officials raided 11 Los Angeles-area dispensaries in one day in January, the largest-ever such crackdown by the agency.
Earlier this month, the DEA sent letters to at least 30 landlords of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County warning their property and assets could be seized. Agency officials said at the time the letters were not a threat.