- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO In the latest tussle between local and federal officials over medical marijuana, the head of the DEA was jeered by city leaders hours after his agents raided a club that provides pot to sick people.
DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson was denounced Tuesday while delivering a speech at the Commonwealth Club of California. Audience members shouted "liar" when he said "science has told us so far there is no medical benefit for smoking marijuana."
Demonstrators outside blew kazoos and chanted "Go away D-E-A."
Earlier, federal agents seized more than 600 pot plants from the Harm Reduction Center and arrested the group's executive director. Three other men also were arrested.
The raid coincided with President Bush's announcement of a stepped-up war on drugs, with a goal of cutting drug abuse by 25 percent in five years in part through improved law enforcement.
California, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Maine, Oregon and Washington state allow the infirm to receive, possess, grow or smoke marijuana for medical purposes without fear of state prosecution.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court said last year it is illegal to distribute marijuana for medical reasons.
During the raid, the Harm Reduction Center's executive director, Richard Watts, was arrested and two other men were charged with growing more than 100 pot plants. In a separate case, a fourth man was charged with growing more than 1,000 plants.
"They all are connected with marijuana smuggling," Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Richard Meyer said. "We've said all along the cultivation and distribution of marijuana is illegal regardless of state or local law."
The center serves about 200 patients a day, all bearing doctors' recommendations to get the drug. Many suffer chronic pain from AIDS and cancer, said David Witty, the marijuana club's chief of security.
San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan has been outspoken in his support of such clubs, and Police Chief Fred Lau has said his officers wouldn't take part in any raids. City leaders declared San Francisco a sanctuary for medical cannabis use last year.

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