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August 8, 1996

San Francisco Buyers' Club Raided, Closed By State Authorities

        August 5, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  San Francisco Superior Court Judge William Cahill granted a temporary injunction on August 5 to close down the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club.  The club -- the largest of approximately 30 underground clubs located across the nation that supplies marijuana as a therapeutic agent to patients who possess a doctor's recommendation -- provided relief for an estimated 11,000 seriously ill patients throughout the bay area.
        The injunction was granted following a raid by state narcotics agents one day earlier.  The early morning raid -- which occurred without the cooperation of local law enforcement or District Attorney Terence Hallinan -- was ordered by state Attorney General Dan Lungren, an outspoken opponent of this year's state ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for medical use (Proposition 215).  According to newspaper and eye-witness accounts, the raid took place at 7:30 a.m., a time when the club was not serving clients.  Armed with a search warrant, nearly 100 gun-toting agents broke down the club's front door and seized medical records, at least two computers, 40 pounds of marijuana, some documents pertaining to Proposition 215, and an undisclosed amount of cash.  In addition, five other locations associated with the club personnel were raided.  A spokesman for the state Justice Department, Steve Telliano, said that no arrests were made during the morning sweeps, but acknowledged that charges may be filed against some of the club's organizers at a later date.
        Many San Francisco leaders expressed both shock and outrage at the actions of the state narcotics officers.  District Attorney Hallinan denounced the raid as a political act by Lungren, who has been mentioned as a Republican candidate for Vice-President.  San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessy said that he will refuse to enforce the injunction and Mayor Willie Brown stated that he was "dismayed by the Gestapo tactics displayed by [the attorney general.]"  In addition, several members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, led by Tom Ammiano, expressed support for the legalization of medicinal marijuana and requested hearings into the raid.  Also, the board passed a resolution calling on the Department of Health to draw up a public health state of emergency declaration for medical marijuana.  Some proponents believe that this measure could eventually pave the way for the suspension of laws against medical marijuana in San Francisco.
        "I feel really angry at the way [the attorney general's office] did it," Ammiano told the San Francisco Chronicle.  "It's the worst kind of political opportunism.  We could have worked with them.  Instead, they chose these storm-trooper tactics."
        The decision to close the San Francisco Buyers' Club was granted by Judge Cahill based on affidavits from narcotics officials that the club had sold marijuana for non-medical purposes to undercover agents.  In a tape released to the media, club founder Dennis Peron was shown selling a quantity of marijuana to an undercover agent for what were alleged to be non-medical purposes.  The agent was posing as an AIDS patient who wished to provide marijuana to fellow patients in a neighboring county.  Evidence substantiating additional allegations of misconduct against the club, such as the charge that club staffers sometimes sold marijuana in excess of that required for personal use, was not presented during the hearing.
        "Judge Cahill ordered the club closed, but you cannot close the spirit of the club," announced Dennis Peron to a crowd of approximately 800 demonstrators who attended a candlelight march later that evening.  "We'll stay open as [the] headquarters for Proposition 215."
        The big question now looming for activists on both sides of the medical marijuana issue is how the raid and subsequent shut-down of the Cannabis Buyers' Club will effect California voter's sentiments in November.  While some Californians speculate that the timing of the raid may have been motivated by political reasons, many marijuana activists forsee the raid as potentially being a catalyst to inspire voters to support Proposition 215.  "The [actions of the attorney general] prove the need to pass Proposition 215," said California NORML Coordinator, Dale Gieringer, Ph.D.  "[He] has made it plain that he not only opposes the medical use of marijuana, but is also intent on wasting taxpayer's money enforcing laws against it."
        Phone calls concerning the status of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club should be directed to the following number: (415) 621-3986.

Buyers' Club Raid Spurs Resolution To Declare Medical Marijuana Emergency
Issue To Be Examined At August 15 Hearing

        August 5, 1996, San Francisco, CA:  In the wake of a state raid on the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors -- led by Tom Ammiano -- has passed a resolution asking city health officials to declare a medical emergency allowing for patients to use marijuana as a medicine.  Ammiano and others believe that state laws forbidding the use of marijuana may be circumvented by declaring an emergency.  San Francisco already has such a program in place regarding needle exchange.
        The city attorney's office told the San Francisco Chronicle that it has no legal opinion on the resolution at this time and Sandra R. Hernandez, the city's director of health, remained noncommital.  State Justice Department spokesman Steve Telliano alleged that county supervisors lack the authority to declare medical emergencies with the intention of circumventing the law.  He explained that the needle exchange program is "illegal" despite being sanctioned by the city.
        The San Francisco Department of Health and the city attorney are set to examine the issue at an August 15 hearing.
        For more information, please contact Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.  For a copy of the resolution, please contact NORML @ (202) 483-5500.

(Meanwhile) Oakland City Council Passes Resolution
To Ensure Local Law Enforcement Do Not Arrest Medical Marijuana Users

        July 30, 1996, Oakland, CA:  The Oakland City Council has unanimously passed a resolution (#72881) establishing a working group to ensure that Oakland police officers adhere to the city's tolerant medical marijuana policy.  Earlier this year, the council declared its desire "not to expend city resources in any investigation, detention, arrest, or prosecution arising out of alleged violations of state and federal law regarding the possession, cultivation, and/or distribution of marijuana for medical use."
        "I believe that this marks the first time a legislative body at any level of government has established an official committee with the express purpose of ensuring that the police do not enforce marijuana laws," said Attorney Robert Raich of Oakland.
        Specifically, the resolution states that a "working group shall consider legislative and administrative methods to ensure enforcement of and compliance with the city's medical marijuana policy."
        The passage of the resolution occurred just days prior to a state raid on the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club.  A similar yet far smaller club currently operates in Oakland and has been endorsed by local officials.
        For more information on the Oakland City Council resolution, please contact Attorney Robert A. Raich @ (510) 420-1137.  For more information on the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club, please contact Jeff Jones @ (510) 832-5346.