LOS ANGELES – Federal agents raided 10 marijuana clinics Wednesday, the same day city leaders introduced a measure calling for an end to the crackdown on the dispensaries allowed under state law.
The bust netted five arrests, large quantities of marijuana and cash, and was the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's second-largest since California voters approved medical marijuana sales in 1996. The drug remains illegal under federal law.
DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen said the timing of the bust and the city's action was "purely coincidental."
The agency has maintained the clinics are distribution points for illegal drugs and earn their owners big profits. Those arrested Wednesday included clinic owners and managers, though no patients, for investigation of marijuana distribution.
Councilman Dennis Zine, who earlier in the day wrote a letter to DEA Administrator Karen Tandy asking the agency to stop the raids, called the federal agents "bullies."
"Instead of using resources to go after drug dealers ruining neighborhoods and poisoning school kids, they're going after individuals dying of cancer and suffering from AIDS who need cannabis to have any type of appetite," Zine said.
The clinics are largely unregulated, which Zine and others said invites illegal pot use and sales.
He said he and the council support a congressional bill that would prohibit new clinics from opening until the city finds a way to better regulate its more than 100 dispensaries. It also calls for withholding funding for DEA raids on medical marijuana clinics.
The council proposed Wednesday requiring existing dispensaries to obtain a city tax registration certificate, a seller's permit, a property lease, business insurance, proof of dispensary membership and a county health permit within 60 days.
DEA agents raided 11 Los Angeles-area dispensaries in one day in January, the largest-ever such crackdown by the agency.
Earlier this month, the DEA sent letters to at least 30 landlords of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County warning their property and assets could be seized. Agency officials said at the time the letters were not a threat.