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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How to Survive a Marijuana Raid (or Just Having Some Weed on You)

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 9:10 AM

click to enlarge Sorry, thought we smelled pot - PULITZER.ORG
  • Sorry, thought we smelled pot

It's been nearly two years since Drug Enforcement Agency agents raided a medical cannabis dispensary in San Francisco. So while a raid might not be fresh on our minds, this week's bust in Montana and Southern California have served as a sobering reminder that yes, it could happen here.

At any time. 

We're not trying to make you paranoid, but local dispensaries can't seem to shake what happened this week when federal authorities abruptly busted into pot clubs in Montana and West Hollywood, Calif.

Those who argue that medical marijuana is legal need a crash course in law. The U.S. Constitution contains a supremacy clause that says federal law trumps state law. And under federal law, marijuana is illegal.

There's no getting around that.

"If you're in this business, you should expect that someone [from the government] could walk into your door at any time," said Kevin Reed, CEO of The Green Cross, a medical cannabis delivery service. "You must always be prepared for that moment."

The national director for Americans for Safe Access, a marijuana-patients' advocacy group, has gone on the record saying the Montana raids were politically-motivated; state legislators in the Big Sky state are discussing whether or not to repeal its seven-year-old medical marijuana laws.

As for West Hollywood, it's still unclear as to why federal authorities raided pot clubs, considering city officials there routinely inspect questionable and shady dispensaries.

The search warrants will remain sealed until a judge's orders otherwise. That means the rest of us who are closely monitoring pot politics are left stewing in the dark.

But we don't need to know why the raids happened to understand the effects of these busts.

"This is a form of intimidation by the federal government," said ASA's Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the Oakland-based national office. "Certainly, anyone who runs a dispensary anywhere is vulnerable."

The likelihood remains marginal that someone can get raided in the Bay Area, but it's not out of the realm of possibility, Hermes added.

This case was in point a few months ago during a San Francisco Medical Cannabis Task force meeting. An audience member in attendance got a text message, alerting people about a city pot club that was getting an unexpected visit from federal authorities. 

It turned out to be a false alarm, yet the message sent people in the room into a frenzy.

So the threat of federal prosecution is probably not foremost on the minds of the open-air tokers who linger on almost every street corner in San Francisco. But maybe it should be -- it certainly is a concern of the people who grow, sell, and transport the marijuana that they're consuming so cavalierly.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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