Pomona, CA PD in no-warrant raid on medical cannabis collective.
On May 6, 2009, Candace Walsh, a 23 year old honor student from the University of California at Long Beach got a nasty civics lesson she won't soon forget. She was arrested, roughed-up, cuffed, stripped-searched, and thrown into jail, on what the police told her was a million dollar bail bond.
When she was finally released on May 9th, she was informed that she had only been “detained” not arrested. The police put her out in the street in same thin sun dress she had been wearing for three days, and with no way of contacting her relatives. They had previously emptied her wallet, and confiscated her phone “for evidence.” She had to borrow a cell phone from a stranger in order to call her sister.
This is how Ms. Walsh described it (see full account here):
“After three days, I was released onto Mission Boulevard in Pomona with no phone, no money for a phone call, and a Detention Slip, telling me that I had not been arrested, just detained. After three days, after missing two of my final exams in school, after a pulled court date, after a protest of more than 50 people, after the fanfare died down, the Pomona Police decided it was about time to kick me out, making sure that there was no one to receive me. One last dig on this 23 year old student, ahem, criminal.”
What terrible crime had Ms. Walsh committed in the small inland city, 25 miles east of Pasadena? Simply this, she was volunteering her time serving patients by handing out informational flyers to them at a medical cannabis collective which had been, according to the collective, forcefully and illegally shut down the previous week (after only seven days of operation.)
The back story (which got scant coverage in local media) went something like this: On the last day in April, with no search warrant in hand, two officers from the Pomona police department forced their way into the AMCCP dispensary, kicking down the doors for the second time in two days. The collective run by patients and volunteers, and which, according to its members operated under strict state guidelines, had been subject to ongoing harassment by the police since they opened. Collective members accused the of police detaining volunteers and continually intimidating patients, turning them away at the door, and threatening them with arrest. During the ensuing raid Pomona Police Officers confiscated cell phones and notes by which the collective members were attempting to document events.
According to one volunteer, when he told the police that without a valid search warrant they were trespassing, the officer responded by saying “You better be careful what you say to me son, because I am old school.” Other officers allegedly stated they did not care about Proposition 215 or SB 420, repeating over and over that this was “their turf”, and that they were “old school.”
California Proposition 215 legalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes with a physician's recommendation, in 1996. Senate Bill 420 provides guidelines meant to protect patients and caregivers from arrest, and recognizes their right to associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate medical marijuana.
But to collective members, perhaps the most egregious aspect of the April 30th raid was the following: While trying to obtain a search warrant, which the police were unable to do until nearly 10:00 PM, they allegedly threatened the driver of a terminally ill cancer patient who was in the waiting room trying to fill out paper work. The cancer patient’s driver was forced to leave the parking lot and drive off under threat of arrest. The cancer patient, who, according to witnesses, appeared gravely ill, asked the police officers if he could please get the help of the volunteers to pick up his prescription. He stated that after receiving his medication he would like to go home. The officers told him to go to a real pharmacy and get a prescription from a real doctor.
According to volunteers at the dispensary, the patient, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, and was extremely ill and weak, was left in the waiting room with no medicine, and no ride home. When he asked the officers to provide him with a ride home they told him no.
So, what did Ms. Walsh learn from her experience?
“Volunteering at my soup kitchen in downtown L.A. can teach you understanding, volunteering with the Red Cross can teach you endurance, and volunteering for a local Medicinal Marijuana collective in Pomona, helping patients with alternative medication, can teach you that local law enforcement can harass and strip search anyone with no probable cause, and no recourse.”
For Ms. Walsh, and the members of the AMCCP collective, newly appointed Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske's call for an end to the War on Drugs, has not come a moment too soon.
The members of the collective are asking for support, and requesting that calls be made, and emails sent to the Pomona City Council. Contact information is listed below:
City Manager: Linda Lowry (909) 620-2051
Mayor Elliott Rothman (909) 620-2042
City Attorney Arnold Glasman(909) 620-2311
City Council Members Email Addresses: