DEA seize files on medical marijuana patients
The Drug Enforcement Administration agents on Friday seized files that contain legal and medical records of more than 5,000 medicinal marijuana patients in El Dorado County. An estimated 500 to 800 of those files contain information on South Shore residents.
Agents raided the home and office of Dr. Mollie Fry, a physician, and her husband, Dale Schafer, a lawyer who earlier had announced he will run for El Dorado County district attorney. Fry and Schafer run the California Medical Research Center in Cool, Calif., a clinic specializing in medicinal marijuana.
The files will remain sealed, as required by the search warrant, at least until a federal court hearing in Sacramento on Thursday. J. David Nick, a San Francisco attorney hired by CMRC, called the seizure improper.
“In any law book you look up to answer this problem it’s going to say it’s illegal in the margins,” said Nick, who specializes in cases related to medical marijuana. “These type of records are confidential in the eyes of the law. It falls under attorney-client privilege. It’s a huge invasion of personal privacy that chills one to the bone.”
DEA spokesman Richard Meyer said the search warrant for the records was signed by a federal magistrate, but he would not discuss what narcotics agents were looking for.
“Our investigation is continuing, and therefore we cannot talk about it,” he said.
Fry is a breast cancer survivor who is a medical marijuana patient. Cancer has recently reappeared in her blood, said Jaimie Daniel, an employee of CMRC. In Friday’s raid, the federal government confiscated 32 marijuana plants Fry kept for personal use.
Details could not be confirmed on Thursday’s court hearing, which was not listed on the Web site calendar for the U.S. District Court in Sacramento. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office there, which handles federal prosecutions in this area, said she had no information on the case.
Nick still doesn’t know why the DEA was issued a search warrant.
“It’s typical for them to keep an application for a search warrant secret for a period of time,” he said, “but it’s very unusual for a warrant to command that any documents seized remain sealed.”
Dale Gieringer, director of California’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said its too early to say that Bush’s new DEA team or state law enforcement are cracking down on the medicinal use of marijuana.
“I know there’s been surveillance at cannabis clubs for a while,” he said. “It’s premature to say whether it’s part of a larger campaign, I don’t know yet. It is the first time the DEA has tried to close a medical cannabis center, whatever that means, and go after a doctor. Everybody is waiting with baited breath to see if they close the clubs. That’s the $64 question.”
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