San Mateo raids highlight legal limbo for cannabis clubs

As any medical marijuana advocate would tell you, operating a cannabis club on the Peninsula has always been a major buzzkill.

Wednesday afternoon’s federal raid, which shut down three medical marijuana dispensaries in downtown San Mateo, spotlights what has been more than a decade of resistance to the clubs, said Dale Gieringer, state coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“Patients are in limbo, and it’s been an ongoing problem in San Mateo County since Prop. 215 passed,” he said.

Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, allows those with a doctor’s recommendation to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. But the law remains shrouded in ambiguity — pot is still illegal under federal law. And the legality of cannabis dispensaries is subject to varied interpretation by different municipalities.

San Mateo County District Attorney James Fox, whose office assisted in the federal investigation, believes dispensaries are violating the terms of Proposition 215.

While medical marijuana is legal under California law, it must be grown by patients or their primary caregivers, or provided by other patients in a collective, he said.

“There’s no way any of the places searched [during the raid] are primary caregivers or collectives. All they were doing was collecting their money,” Fox said.

With Wednesday’s shutdown of the three clubs, only one medical marijuana club remains in the county, Gieringer said.

According to Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Joycelyn Barnes, federal agents seized $30,000 and 50 pounds of marijuana, hash and pot-laced food during the searches. San Mateo police and the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force assisted in the raids on Patients Choice Resource Cooperative at 164 South Blvd., Peninsula Patients Local Option at 297 Claremont St. and MHT at 60 E. Third Ave.

Gieringer criticized local authorities for taking part in the raid.

“I don’t think the DEA goes ahead without local assistance,” he said. “Were the clubs causing any problem whatsoever? I think the San Mateo police owe everyone an explanation.”

San Mateo police Lt. Mike Brunicardi said the police department has an obligation — both to its citizens and to allied agencies — to assist in investigations of illegal activity.

San Mateo City Manager Arne Croce said all three pot clubs had cropped up over the past two years and weren’t forthcoming with city officials about what they were selling. He said the city had recently received several complaints about the outlets.

tbarak@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A Recology employee stands at the comapany’s recycling facility on Pier 96 in 2016. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
Nuru scandal: Feds charge second former Recology executive with bribery

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public… Continue reading

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City College classes for English learners jeopardized by cutbacks

English learners and their supporters called for financial support from The City… Continue reading

Kiana Williams
Stanford’s Kiana Williams drafted by WNBA champion Seattle Storm

Kiana Williams is going from one championship team to another. A senior… Continue reading

Talika Fletcher, sister of Roger Allen, is consoled at a vigil to honor her brother, who was killed by Daly City Police on April 7, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Supporters march for SF man killed by Daly City police

Struggle over fake gun ends in shooting of 44-year-old Roger Allen, DA says

Syd Mandelbaum created the home run tracker, which revolutionized statistics in major league sports. (Courtesy photo)
Home run tracker, with roots at Candlestick Park, marks 30 years

When Giants first baseman Brandon Belt slugged a solo home run in… Continue reading

Most Read