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San Francisco club raid reignites conflict over legalized marijuana


April 22, 1997
Web posted at: 5:26 a.m. EDT (0926 GMT)

From Correspondent Don Knapp

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- The use of marijuana for medical purposes suffered a blow Monday when federal Drug Enforcement agents burst into a San Francisco marijuana club, seizing 331 pot plants and the equipment used to grow them.

"They just kicked the door in (and) tore off the lock, and the keys were right here to open the door," said Flower Therapy Medical Marijuana Club co-owner Beth Moore.

"We've been totally open about all this," Moore added. "We've really followed the rules here, and it's senseless why they should target us."


The Flower Therapy club opened last September, just before California voters approved a measure legalizing marijuana for medical patients whose doctors recommended using it. Since then, clubs like Flower Therapy have operated with the full knowledge of the police and health departments. Moore said use of the Flower Therapy's marijuana requires a notarized doctor's prescription.

Still, marijuana use for any purpose remains illegal under federal law. And while two weeks ago, a federal judge blocked the federal government from prosecuting California doctors who recommend marijuana to their patients, the ruling said nothing about usage in private clubs.

"They had to stop attacking doctors and they're mad, so what they're doing is, they're back attacking the patients," said Moore.

Growing operations targeted


A spokesman for the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency said it's been the DEA's position that large-scale, sophisticated growing operations are a violation of federal law, which prohibits marijuana cultivation.

"Proposition 215 simply did not change federal law, and it did not change the San Francisco DEA's interest in these types of cases," spokesman Stan Vegar said.

Medical marijuana advocates, however, say the raid shows contempt for California voters.

"Right now we have a black tar epidemic, a heroin black tar epidemic that's sweeping the city," said Dennis Peron, a medical marijuana advocate. "If they want to help, help with the hard drugs. Leave our marijuana and patients alone."

Flower Therapy co-owner Barbara Sweeney says she smokes marijuana to help tolerate the powerful medicines she's taking to fight AIDS.


"It helps with the nausea. It keeps up my appetite and keeps me calm," she said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Arizona, which also has a voter- approved measure legalizing medical marijuana, put its law on hold when the governor signed a bill stopping doctors from prescribing marijuana without approval from the federal government.

Still, Monday's raid on the Flower Therapy Medical Marijuana Club hasn't put it out of business. No arrests were made and the club remains open, selling marijuana it buys from other growers. They say, as far as they're concerned, the only thing the marijuana bust did was to guarantee that marijuana prices will remain high.


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