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San Jose cops off DEA squad

“It’s unfair to put our officers in a position of deciding how they’re going to enforce a law that’s in conflict with local law,” Lansdowne said.
San Jose cops off DEA squad

<www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi>

Chief doesn’t want them raiding pot clubs

by Mark Simon
Thursday, October 10, 2002

San Jose Police Chief William Lansdowne has yanked his officers off the Drug Enforcement
Administration task force that raided a Santa Cruz medicinal marijuana club a month ago.
Lansdowne said his four officers and one sergeant have better things to do - - such as tackle the
methamphetamine epidemic, than harass local pot clubs, which are operating within state law.
“I think the priorities are out of sync at the federal level,” said Lansdowne, who said he agrees the
state’s voters made the right decision in legalizing marijuana for medical use under regulated circumstances.
“The problem in California right now is methamphetamines, not medical marijuana.”
Lansdowne said the DEA-led raid put his officers in the middle of a “clear conflict” between state and federal law.
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, which permits local governments to regulate distribution of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Federal law outlaws marijuana use in any manner. The federal government has argued, and the argument has been upheld in federal court, that U.S. marijuana laws override state or local ordinances.
A little more than a month ago, an armed and DEA-led task force raided the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz, seizing 167 plants and arresting founders Mike and Valerie Corral.
WAMM has been operating since 1996 under the supervision and approval of city, county and local law enforcement officials. WAMM grows its own marijuana organically on its own farm.
“It’s unfair to put our officers in a position of deciding how they’re going to enforce a law that’s in conflict with local law,” Lansdowne said.
The San Jose officers had been assigned to the DEA’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, a unit that also included personnel from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI and the Santa Clara County sheriff’s office.
DEA spokesman Rich Meyer would not disclose the size of the task force. A sheriff’s spokesman said Santa Clara County deputies remain on the unit.
The San Jose officers have been reassigned to the department’s own narcotics unit and the state Bureau of Narcotics task force.
The DEA’s Meyer reacted diplomatically to Lansdowne’s decision to withdraw his officers from the task force.
“He’s certainly entitled to his opinions, and we have great respect for him, “ Meyer said. “However, the federal law is very clear when it comes to marijuana, and our mandate is to enforce the laws.”
Lansdowne, a 32-year veteran of the San Jose Police Department, the last four as chief, said his
responsibilities are clear, he must follow the state law.
“I think the public made the decision for us that if it’s well-managed, it’s legal,” he said. “Our district
attorney believes that, the state believes that, and I believe they’re correct, so long as there are controls in place.”
Incidentally, Proposition 215 passed with 81 percent of the vote in Santa Cruz and with nearly 63 percent of the vote in San Jose.
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Mark Simon can be seen on The Chronicle’s “Peninsula This Week” premiering 9 p.m. Tuesday
on Peninsula TV, cable Channel 26, and on other local Peninsula community cable channels. He can be reached at (650) 299-8071, by fax at (650) 299-9208
 
 


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