Protesters in SF advocate for medical marijuana, while the DEA raids Bay Area clinics and scares Berkeley patients
Agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency swooped into the Bay Area on Tuesday, raiding medical marijuana facilities in Oakland and San Francisco and arresting four men.
The raids, which occurred just as the federal government asked citizens to be on the highest alert for imminent terrorist attacks, set the stage for DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson’s long-planned speech at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club Tuesday evening.
The raids have left local medical marijuana patients frightened, according to one caregiver, and the local clubs scrambling to ensure that their patients have access to marijuana in the event that the DEA conducts additional raids in Berkeley.
California voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, which legalized medical marijuana in the state. The federal government has not accepted the validity of the law, and conducted crackdowns on medical marijuana clubs in West Hollywood in October.
The main raid occurred at San Francisco’s Harm Reduction Center, a medical marijuana facility on Sixth Street between Market and Mission streets. Agents took 630 marijuana plants from the site and arrested Richard Watts, the club’s executive director.
Also among the arrested was renown marijuana guru Ed Rosenthal of Oakland, a long-time columnist for High Times magazine and the author of several marijuana-related books. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Rosenthal was charged with cultivating more than 100 plants.
A second man, Kenneth Hayes of Petaluma, was arrested in Canada and charged with being Rosenthal’s accomplice.
In a separate case, James Halloran of Oakland was arrested and charged with cultivation of more than 1,000 plants.
It is unclear whether Rosenthal, Hayes and Halloran were connected with the Harm Reduction Center or any other medical marijuana club.
DEA spokesman Richard Meyer told the Associated Press that the arrested were drug “smugglers.”
“They all are connected with marijuana smuggling,” Meyer said. “We’ve said all along the cultivation and distribution of marijuana is illegal regardless of state or local law. Our job is to enforce federal law.”
Debbie Goldberry of the Alliance of Berkeley Patients said that their club, which has offices on Ashby Avenue, has long had an emergency action plan in place, in the event of a DEA crackdown.
“We’re very well prepared,” she said. “We have a phone bank, we have lawyers that are willing to represent the cause. Our main concern is that our patients do get their medication even if our offices are raided.”
Goldberry said that medical science had long established that marijuana had medicinal properties, and that the federal government’s persecution of patients was obstinate and unjust.
“The fact that they keep doing this despite the science, despite the will of the people, is absurd,” she said. “We’re getting a little bit fed up.”
Councilmember Kriss Worthington said on Tuesday afternoon that he would be going to a 5 p.m. San Francisco rally outside the Commonwealth Club. Most members of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors were expected to attend.
“The U.S. government is facing budget problems just like everyone else,” Worthington said. “It’s a colossal waste of money to do what they’re doing.”
Hutchinson’s Commonwealth Club speech, entitled “Let’s Don’t Punt on the Third Down,” was supposed to be on the future of the DEA and its relationship with drug enforcement in California.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Hank Sims at email@example.com