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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Want to Open a Medical Marijuana Dispensary in S.F.? The DEA Is Onto You

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2012 at 8:55 AM

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We're no police theorist, but the goals of a law enforcement action are simple: to prevent, to intervene, or otherwise dissuade behavior deemed illegal.

If this is the case, the federal Justice Department's crackdown on California's medical marijuana industry is only partway there; about a dozen Bay Area dispensaries have been shuttered, yet would-be cannabis sellers are lining up to open more, according to records.

For those of you into medical marijuana, know this: Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent David White is onto you. White, of the San Francisco Field Division's Financial Investigation Team, in June requested and received the applications, including personal contact information, for all proposed San Francisco medical marijuana dispensaries, according to public records.


Requests from White have been precursors to letters from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag forcing dispensaries to close down rather than face stiff penalties, including jail time.

The information granted to White is publicly available to anyone who asks. That includes redacted copies of Department of Public Health permit applications, along with a would-be dispensary operator's name, age, driver license number, and contact information. They also include the property address of a proposed dispensary.

Last fall, White requested files on three dispensaries, all of which were shut down by Christmas. He then requested files on two more (shut down by January), then four more (all of which were out of business by the end of July). In the spring, he requested the file on all existing dispensaries, and then requested the file on all proposed or permitted-but-not-yet open dispensaries in June, according to records.

White, working with Assistant U.S. Attorney Arvon J. Perteet, is also involved in the forfeiture action pending against Harborside Health Center, California's largest dispensary, according to records.

One may ask why a financial investigator would take interest in an operation that, while federally illegal, has yet to begin operating.

E-mails sent to White were returned by Casey McEnry, a DEA spokeswoman, who in turn referred SF Weekly to the U.S. Attorney's Office for comment. The local arm of the Justice Department has responded to nearly all press inquiries regarding the marijuana crackdown since last year with a "no comment."

So the crackdown continues into its 11th month. How to judge its efficacy? Here's a telling anecdote: One of the applications for a new dispensary was filed in March by Joseph Hunt, whose Mr. Nice Guy on Valencia Street was one of the first dispensaries shut down by the feds in December.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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