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Feds escalate war on sick

DEA raids fuel angry protests in San Francisco

By Dale Gieringer, California NORML

Angry marijuana protesters besieged Drug Enforcement Administration Director Asa Hutchinson during his visit to San Francisco following the DEA's medical cannabis raids on February 12th. The raids and protest were extensively covered by local TV and radio, but only cursorily reported in a back-page, second-section story by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The raids were focused specifically on the 6th St Harm Reduction Clinic, where the DEA used a mole who, reportedly, had turned informant after being implicated in a large scale medipot smuggling operation between British Columbia and San Francisco. All of the arrestees were linked to the Clinic.

Contrary to earlier rumors, no other clubs were raided. Known arrestees include HRC director Richard Watts; Oakland 'pot guru' Ed Rosenthal, charged with cultivation of over 100 plants; patient grower James Halloran of Oakland, charged with over 1000 plants; and former HRC director Ken Hayes, who was acquitted in a high-profile medipot jury trial in state court a year ago. Hayes was apprehended in Vancouver and released without bail. The other defendants in San Francisco were allowed bail and released. DEA spokesmen denied that they were targeting SF's medical marijuana clubs but stressed they were obliged to follow the law and that the February raids were linked to an investigation of significant trafficking.

Angry protesters filled the street outside the Commonwealth Club when Hutchinson came to speak. A chorus of city officials came to denounce the raids, including SF DA Terence Hallinan and half the Board of Supervisors (Mark Leno, Tom Ammiano, Matt Gonzalez, and Chris Daly). Chants of "DEA go away" could be heard inside the club when Hutchinson began to speak. Aside from Hutchinson's entourage, the audience was packed with drug reform activists who vocally expressed their feelings.

Hutchinson good-humoredly professed to having second thoughts about speaking in San Francisco, given the city's "extraordinary tradition of tolerance for drug use, from 19th century opium dens to the Haight-Ashbury counterculture, to the cannabis clubs of the 21st century" (wild cheers). "San Francisco has been the hot spot for challenging current thinking on drug laws," he aptly added.

His speech consisted of the standard boilerplate about drugs and terrorism. With regards to medical cannabis, he said it was not a high priority, but that he would enforce the law, and that his agency was strongly supportive of the medical cannabis research program at UC San Diego, which is expected to report initial results later this year.

During the question period, the Club's moderator said he normally chooses a balance of written questions to present to the speaker, but that in this case there happened to be no questions on the speaker's side. Hutchinson appeared uncharacteristically off balance when pressed about showing compassion for sick people in need of medicine. "America is a compassionate society," he lamely replied, then stressed the need for input on marijuana's efficacy from doctors and medical researchers.

All in all, protesters succeeded in demonstrating to Hutchinson that he has zero support in San Francisco. The more arduous task ahead will be to defend the victims of DEA's nasty undercover operation from daunting federal sentences ranging up to 40 years.

Contact Dale Gieringer at (415) 563-5858 or by email:, and send letters to 2215-R Market St. #278, San Francisco CA 94114

The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information:
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