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Debate rages over DEA raid of Westside medical marijuana dispensaries

February 4, 2009 | 11:49 am

A DEA raid on three Westside medical marijuana dispensaries has generated outrage from supporters, some of whom had expressed hope that the federal government would halt such actions once Barack Obama took office.

On Tuesday, three different groups of DEA officers simultaneously served search warrants to the  dispensaries about noon, said Sarah Pullen, a DEA spokeswoman.

“I can’t get into details as to the probable cause behind the warrants except for the fact that they’re dealing with marijuana, which is illegal under federal law,” she said.

An employee of Beach Center Collective in Playa del Rey said DEA officers confiscated so much property that it would not be able to reopen.

“They took everything,” said the 32-year-old employee, who asked not to be named. “You name it, they took it -- right down to the television. The computer, patient files, medicine, cash in the register -- that’s it, we’re done. It’s just too bad. [Our patients] have epilepsy, cancer, MS, diabetes -- two of our patients have one leg. They’re gonna have to travel a lot farther and go to places that aren’t as safe for them.”

Representatives of Marina Caregivers of Marina del Rey and Alternative Caregivers Discount Dispensary in Venice also said their places of work shad been raided and suffered damage.

In response to the recent DEA raids, Americans for Safe Access, an organization that promotes safe and legal access to marijuana, is planning a  rally for Thursday at noon in front of the downtown Los Angeles federal building.

“When a dispensary is raided by the DEA they come in and confiscate all of the patients’ medicine,” said Don Duncan, co-founder of ASA. “In some cases that means the dispensary can’t reopen. It could also result in somebody being prosecuted in federal court and spending time in jail. The city of Los Angeles is trying to regulate these facilities and this kind of federal interference makes that regulation impossible.”

Cities around the state have been dealing with complaints about the proliferation of dispensaries, with some city councils voting to prohibit new ones.

--Corina Knoll