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2 West Hollywood medical marijuana dispensaries raided by federal agents

A law enforcement officer carries away evidence from a raid Tuesday at a West Hollywood medical marijuana dispensary. Federal drug enforcement agents Tuesday raided two West Hollywood medical marijuana stores in the first such action in the city since the Obama administration decided two years ago to take a hands-off approach to dispensaries that abide by state laws.

The dispensaries -- Alternative Herbal Health Services and Zen Healing on Santa Monica Boulevard -- are among four that the city has authorized to operate. West Hollywood was one of the first California cities to regulate medical marijuana sales and is often cited as a model.

Sarah Pullen, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman, confirmed the raids, saying they started about 2:10 p.m. and were conducted with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. She declined to say what led to the raids or what was seized at the stores.

“The warrants are under seal by the courts, so I can’t get into any details as to anything further,” she said. “It’s part of an ongoing operation.”

Bill Kroger, an attorney who represents the operator of Zen Healing, said he arrived half an hour after federal agents served the warrant. He said he saw about half-a-dozen DEA agents inside the store and a few sheriff’s deputies outside. He said five or six employees were in handcuffs.

“It didn’t seem like something they were in a hurry to wrap up,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about protesters coming anymore.”

More than five hours after the agents arrived at Zen Healing, they were still at work inside the glass-front store. A hand-lettered sign taped to the door said: “Closed permanently.” The store’s ragged-edged neon marijuana leaf was unlit.

Kroger said agents seized marijuana and cash, but he did not know how much. “I’d say they have a good amount of money,” he said. He also said that DEA agents had the store’s operator in custody.

Pullen confirmed that federal agents had one person in custody.

West Hollywood has prided itself on diligent oversight of its dispensaries and the raids came as a shock to activists.

“This is incredibly unsettling that the DEA would strike permitted collectives in a sanctuary city,” said Dege Coutee, who runs the Patient Advocacy Network. “I hope that this is not going to be indicative for what the rest of our summer season will look like.”

The DEA raided five of six dispensaries in West Hollywood in 2007, but has left the city’s stores alone since then.

“It’s a very unpleasant surprise, of course,” said Don Duncan, who runs Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group, a West Hollywood dispensary that was not raided, and is the California director for Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy organization.

Duncan said that the DEA has conducted about a dozen raids in California since the Obama administration adopted its new approach. “That’s obviously disappointing, although it is an order of magnitude less than what we saw under the Bush administration,” he said.

Duncan visited both dispensaries while federal agents were still there. “It was remarkably discreet at both locations,” he said. He said he talked to the operators of the dispensaries and said they seemed very surprised that they were targeted.

“My gut instinct is these are one-off raids,” he said. “I don’t believe this is part of a sweep.”


A federal about-face on medical marijuana

-- John Hoeffel

Photo: A law enforcement officer carries away evidence from a raid Tuesday at a West Hollywood medical marijuana dispensary. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (34)

The federal government's War on Drugs is a war on human rights and the American people, period.

We are laying off teachers by the thousands, the federal government can't afford to inspect food or drugs effectively, and yet ... we have the money to do this? What stupidity.

The harassment continues. Sounds like our rulers want us to know who's boss. At least they didn't shut down the freeway and claim that they were making cocaine this time... oh, I forgot. That's an LAPD tactic.

Mr. Obama,, you are tempting me to vote for Ron Paul if you go back on your word.

BTW, have they announced the charges for the raid that closed the freeway?

Is Obama running for re election?

They raided a bunch of dispensaries in Montana yesterday (Monday) as well. Atleast 20 of them according to the Justice Dept. Press Release.

This is pitiful ! What a horrible set up! Time to get rid of the federal They are so UNFAIR!!!!!!!!

DEA: A 2.3 billion dollar a year budget and targeting collectives, which goes against the Obama administration's wishes. Can we give the money to real problems?

This is absolute insanity. Marijuana is not dangerous.


What triggered these raids? No word from the DEA?

Does this signal a change in policy for the DEA?

Thank you, DEA heroes.

And hero is not too strong a word for what these courageous men of law-enforcement do.

I'm not ashamed to say I love paying your bloated salaries. In fact, I wish they'd raise all our taxes, so we could buy the DEA some cool new high-tech helicopters and body armor and whatnot.


What a waste of time, energy and money. So many problems in the world and this is what the Fed cares about? It would be laughable if it weren't so tragic.

Sanctuary City ... HAHAHAHA

I can't wait to see the day when these shameful and senseless witch-hunts against citizens in connection with cannabis medicinal plant will stop altogether. I stressed many times already that no system, no matter of how repressive, can survive on a series of "un-realities". Everything that the DEA and its allies use to intimidate citizens (and politicians) about the remarkable cannabis plant is based on unreality: cannabis is NOT physically addictive, the so-called "gateway drug theory" is NOT scientifically valid, smoking cannabis does NOT lead to increase in the risk of ling cancer, legalization in other countries did NOT lead to increased cannabis use, and in addition it is proven that cannabis use suppresses violent behavior. Cannabis is immeasurably safer than alcohol, (and most currently used prescription drugs - do we even notice their devastating potential side effects at their TV commercials?), and be so ignorant as to say that cannabis plant does not have medicinal value is to be out of touch with "reality" altogether. Legalization of medicinal cannabis is non-partisan because all of us can get sick and be able to take advantage of its remarkable medicinal properties. Let's reject the prohibitionist fear-tactics as they have no substance to them, and legalize cannabis in all 50 States without further delay!

Is this the hands-off approach Obama promised? It appears to be the same as his campaign promise to raise taxes on the rich. It appears to be the same as his promise to implement meaningful financial reform. Why are the criminals responsible for the financial fiasco enjoying the fruits of their crime? Why aren't they in jail? Why didn't retirees whose 401'ks were decimated by these scoundrels get their money back? Why is the federal government going after marijuana dispensaries instead of Wall Street?

This is why we are in debt. Utilizing police and DEA resources to bust a pot shop.

This is a local concern. The DEAis overreaching. I can only see this as a negative for the long term legitimacy of federal authority. When federal agencies impose upon California local concerns and thwart the will of the local electorate it breeds contempt for federal enforcement.

LOL, it's STILL ILLEGAL UNDER FEDRAL LAW---what part of that can't Don Duncan get into his thick head. Just like "illegal immigration" is illegal!

Soooooooooooooooooooooooo, I wonder if the good citizen of WeHo will be voting for President Obama come 2012 now that he has shut down their pot stores, and will not support "same sex" marriage......I love it to be honest....my own community thrown right under the cross town bus by the person they helped put into office

Opps! Oh yeah, this is STILL A FEDERAL OFFENSE!

The LASD on Illegal Immigration: Its OK! Illegal Immigration is legal under California law, and we don't enforce federal laws.

The LASD on Medical Marijuana: Don't do it! Medical Marijuana is not legal under federal law, and we enforce federal laws.

The LASD is composed of renegades using the third world practice of enforcing laws its members like, and ignoring laws that its members don't like. There is no important difference between the LASD and the Tijuana Police Dept. The LASD is law enforcement that comes directly from the bottom of the pit.

what a true waste of tax payer resources, I am not a MMJ user but my grandfather had cancer and MMJ made his life so much better it breaks my heart to see our hard earned tax money to again be misappropriated by status quo, elitist fear mongers, time to fight back with peaceful protest! to stand up for your civil rights out in the open an demand them! this is straight out wrong!!

“It didn’t seem like something they were in a hurry to wrap up,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about protesters coming anymore.”

No Protesters, BOOOOOOOOOOOO to the patients and to ASA. They should have sent out an e-mail and text message alert as they say they do. We know that the longer the DEA is in a collective the more they destroy.

They are very destructive types of people. The longer they have the more evidence they can steal. How is it that in West Hollywood, the place that Medical Marijuana collectives started in LA, we can't organize a protest?

I still can't believe the comment that they don't have to worry about protesters anymore. I say we make them worry like they have never worried before about protests. Let's reorganize our collectives and get some text messaging trees established again in case of situations like this one.

I can remember when people were laying in front of the DEA's vehicles and getting arrested. I can remember DEA agents getting the hell out of Dodge as soon as the protesters would show up. I know from first hand experience that the DEA, along with the LAPD, leave quickly as soon as the chants start. They look out side as if they were in a fox hole. As they put on their masks to hide their faces and run to their vehicles.

Our strength is in our numbers and we have more numbers then ever at this point. The apathy must die, and empathy must be reborn, or we risk losing everything we've worked towards.

The DEA just raided ten places in Montana the day before this. The attack is on, let's prepare with non-violent protests and cameras to take photos and videos of the government sanctioned robberies. Let's make them worry about protesters once again.

what a waste get a life dea there is way more to worry about than medical marijuana leave them alone already what a waste its sad to see

LEAVE US ALONE DEA!! We voted, we want medical marijuana. I don't know why I have to pay your salary.
I have an idea, why doesn't the DEA go help the ATF clean up their mess. Go get guns off the street, go get drugs that kill people off the street. Drugs like alcohol, meth, cocaine, heroin, pain pills, cigarettes, go get that crap off the street, thats the stuff killing people.
Ohh yeah you need more funding so you rob the dispensaries, thats what it is isn't it. The DEA robs people now.

Wow. DEA approving marijuana pills (schedule 1 to schedule 3) in order to bankroll pharmaceuticals, yet keeping the plant matter as schedule 1. Illegal as a plant, but legal as a pill. Pure hypocricy. DEA will not acknowledge reputable scientific studies on the source (actual marijuana plant) yet will accept big pharma lobbyists money. The younger generation will see the DEA as scam artists and will not support anything the DEA does (positive or negative). The new war is on. DEA & big pharma versus the people and dispensaries.


What a jerk.This guy makes millions from drugs and Obama says its OK.

After reading all the LOSER"S comments ,I can see why the State is in trouble.
All these faggards are doped up and hostile against Obama for lieing.Grow up,get a job,don't let your kids smoke dope and realise that Obama is a narcisstic dope himself,like all of you.

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