Pot Grower Gets Letter of Warning from DEA

Pot Grower Gets Letter of Warning from DEA
Posted by CN Staff on September 20, 2002 at 10:17:13 PT
By Jeff McDonald, Staff Writer 
Source: Union Tribune
Federal law enforcement officials in San Diego may be preparing to crack down on medical marijuana activist Steven McWilliams, who this week handed out samples of the drug to sick people outside City Hall.An agent from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration approached McWilliams on the street as he was running errands yesterday afternoon and hand-delivered a letter warning him to stop cultivating his plants or face arrest.
Signed by U.S. Attorney Carol C. Lam, the correspondence advises McWilliams that he is not protected by a state law that allows chronically ill patients to use and grow the pain-relieving drug.True to form, McWilliams said he would not be intimidated by the federal government and vowed that he would continue growing and dispensing marijuana to needy patients."We're being retaliated against," said McWilliams, who has made no secret of the two dozen or so marijuana plants he grows outside his Normal Heights home. "They don't want this, and they're going to try and shut us down."Lam did not return calls seeking comment about the letter, but her office released a statement saying that marijuana is not medicine under federal law.Donald Thornhill Jr., spokesman for the DEA office in San Diego, defended the warning to McWilliams as a routine response to unlawful behavior. The DEA would help carry out any raid on McWilliams' garden."Obviously, there's a conflict with the federal laws and with what some of these medical marijuana people are doing," Thornhill said. "The bottom line for us is that medical marijuana continues to be illegal."California voters in 1996 approved Proposition 215, which allows patients to grow and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Seven other states also have adopted medical marijuana laws, but federal officials maintain that the use or possession of the drug remains criminal.The state Supreme Court last July granted limited immunity from prosecution to medical marijuana patients, but the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that medical necessity was no defense for violating federal drug rules.In San Diego, city officials have been working for nearly a year to somehow reconcile the incompatible laws.A task force will present its recommended guidelines to a City Council committee as soon as next month. The committee estimated that 1,500 or more sick and dying patients would be eligible for special identification cards the city plans to issue early next year.Juliana Humphrey, an attorney who serves as chairwoman of the city task force, said the letter from federal officials was disturbing."It's clear that the federal government, despite its many other obligations at this point in history, seems to be making time to harass medical users of marijuana," she said. "It's a very ominous and bullying tactic that the feds are using to deal with a medical issue."Delivery of the letter came two days after McWilliams conducted a high-profile protest outside San Diego City Hall, where he criticized city officials for moving too slowly to implement state law.That demonstration was timed to support a much larger rally also staged Tuesday in Santa Cruz. Local elected officials there joined 1,000 or more medical marijuana patients in decrying a federal drug raid on a garden outside Santa Cruz this month.In that case, armed federal agents seized 100 marijuana plants and arrested several people. The suspects were later released and prosecutors announced that no charges would be filed.Thornhill said the timing of yesterday's letter had nothing to do with the protests this week. "Regardless of what the politics are, people are subject to arrest and he's violating the law," the DEA spokesman said.McWilliams is by far the leading advocate for medical marijuana in San Diego County. His marijuana gardens have been raided several times, and earlier this year he completed three years of formal probation he received after pleading guilty to a 1998 misdemeanor charge of illegal cultivation.San Diego police are well aware of McWilliams and generally steer clear of his Normal Heights cannabis club, the only place south of Los Angeles where medical marijuana patients can obtain the drug.In fact, McWilliams said, when he complained last month that people were trying to steal his plants at the start of the harvest season, police informed nearby residents that the garden was legal under state law.Note: Steven McWilliams says he won't be intimidated.Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)Author: Jeff McDonald, Staff Writer Published: September 20, 2002Copyright: 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.Contact: letters uniontrib.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:WAMM for Safe Access Activist Prods S.D. on Medical Pot Rules Marijuana Activists Give It Away at City Hall
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #4 posted by goneposthole on September 21, 2002 at 07:31:11 PT
The DEA has kicked a sleeping dog
A big one.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Ethan Russo MD on September 20, 2002 at 12:15:10 PT:
Juliana Humphrey
I had the pleasure of working with her on a legal case in which a San Diego resident with a doctor's letter was prosecuted for having grown some few plants. Fortunately, after the DA's office read the submitted info we sent on cannabis in migraine treatment, they dropped the case. Meanwhile, she had lost her husband, job, and money on account of the incident. That's justice for you.Juliana is well educated on this subject and will, no doubt, attempt to do the right thing in the context of a rabid government gone crazy with paranoia and vindictive zeal. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by FoM on September 20, 2002 at 11:37:44 PT
Please Check Out This Great Cartoon
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Windminstrel on September 20, 2002 at 10:45:20 PT
Uhh, sure
"defended the warning to McWilliams as a routine response to unlawful behavior"Uh, yeah, right. The DEAs routine response to someone growing pot is an angry letter? 
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment