Next month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to testify on Capitol Hill at the invitation of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) about the Obama administration's ineffable policy on medical marijuana. He'll have a lot to explain: When Obama ran for his first term as president, the former recreational pot smoker signaled he would not interfere with states such as California that allow sick residents to smoke cannabis. Yet in November 2011, the White House unleashed a major crackdown on the Golden State's biggest cash crop, threatening landlords and growers with criminal penalties and the seizure of their properties, as well as shuttering countless storefront pot dispensaries.

Despite the ongoing Potpocalypse, Holder as well as other Justice Department officials—including U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr., who supervises drug-enforcement efforts in Southern California—have repeatedly stated they aren't going after marijuana collectives that obey state law, but rather targeting only organized-crime syndicates, such as the multicounty pot ring run by San Clemente resident John Walker, who last month earned a 22-year prison sentence in an Orange County federal courtroom. Yet internal department emails obtained by the Weekly suggest federal prosecutors are intent on eradicating all storefront dispensaries in California. In one email, for example, a Justice Department official announces that while there are still some clubs open in Santa Ana, this "handful of stragglers" would be dealt with "soon enough."

The feds are apparently so intent on eradicating California's medical-marijuana industry that it is threatening wheelchair-bound activists such as Marla James, the president of the Orange County chapter of Americans for Safe Access. On Aug. 7, DEA agents paid a visit to 17511 Griffin Lane, a building in an industrial neighborhood of Huntington Beach. The location is the most recent home of Med-Aid, a group of disabled, sick and terminally ill Orange County residents who collectively smoke cannabis.

Bob Aul

Under threats from the DEA and city officials in Anaheim, where Med-Aid operated last year, the collective moved to Sunset Beach, until police parked a cruiser in front of the group's storefront, forcing it to move once again.

James, a member of Med-Aid, says DEA agents served the group with a notice to close within 14 days or else face criminal prosecution—adding they were specifically looking for her. "I got a call from the collective saying, 'There are a bunch of feds looking for you,'" James says. "When I got home, there were six DEA agents waiting."

James, who had been attending a local Democratic Party meeting, wasn't even able to lower herself via her vehicle's wheelchair elevator before the feds surrounded the car and personally served her with a letter threatening to seize the building and to prosecute anyone who continues to operate a collective at the location. Med-Aid agreed to close its doors.

In one email shedding new light on the crackdown, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Parham bragged about his office's zeal in eradicating all dispensaries. "My old pal, Jay Williams, called me again this afternoon," Parham wrote in an Aug. 28, 2012, email. "As you probably recall, Williams is the potential operator for the [marijuana] store that was due to open at the above location [in Anaheim]. Williams told me that he had talked with a couple of lawyers, and they told him that if he followed the letter of the law '110 percent,' then he had nothing to worry about. I told Williams that the lawyers lied to him and completely disregarded federal law. Williams was again advised that we are enforcing federal law in this district and that all stores in our jurisdiction will be shut down."

According to Parham, Williams asked whether he could relocate to either Garden Grove or Santa Ana. "I made it clear that there was not a city in the area that he could safely move to," Parham wrote. "Keep your eyes open for Mr. Williams (if that is his true name). It seems like he is really conflicted about staying in the game."

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kowal took delight in the California Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year that upheld the right of cities to ban dispensaries. "The Cal SCT decision has really had a positive impact," Kowal wrote in a June 13, 2013, email. "In addition to closing the final stores in Anaheim, I just spoke to Garden Grove, and they inform that they were able to shut down 50-plus stores in a few weeks and are down to 0. Still some in Santa Ana and a handful of other stragglers, but [Special Agent] Mertus will see to that soon enough."

Some of the most recent emails obtained by the Weekly show that federal prosecutors viewed as cause for celebration complaints from landlords and collectives who worried about sick people not being able to get access to their medicine. In a May 28 email, Parham revels in the news that a landlord, whose surname is Kinney, had authorized eviction of a marijuana collective. "Kinney talked to the tenant today, and he said he felt terrible for all the sick people who were unable to get their medicine," Parham wrote.

In a separate email sent to Parham just five minutes earlier, one of Parham's colleagues, Sandra Sagert, expressed glee over the eviction. "[H]opefully, we can resolve soon, so we can celebrate! Has been a little over a year since we started. . . . [smiley face]."

Other internal emails show that federal prosecutors used tactics to deliberately terrify landlords who had rented to cannabis collectives. In a Feb. 12 email, one federal agent described a conversation he'd had that morning with a landlord who had no idea he was in danger of losing his property. The landlord, the agent recalled, "said he is unaware that it was illegal for his tenants to sell marijuana from his property. He also said he was never contacted by the government in reference to this property being used to sell marijuana."

The agent then asked his colleagues whether they had any record of a letter being sent to the landlord. In response, another agent chimed in and claimed he'd just hand-delivered a letter to the landlord, stating it had been mailed the previous year. "He said he never got it, but the tenants moved out around the time the letter was dated."

Responding to that exchange, Greg Parham, who was supervising federal asset-forfeiture efforts earlier this year, thanks everyone for their hard work and bluntly states, "We have made a strategic decision not to send our warning letters out via certified or registered mail."

Why would the feds deliberately not make every effort to ensure landlords are notified in a timely and reliable manner their buildings are being targeted? For "shock value," Parham's replacement, Steven Welk, allegedly told attorney Matt J. Pappas in a courtroom conference earlier this year.

"Mr. Welk told me he intentionally did not send warning letters to [three of my clients] ahead of filing forfeiture actions against their properties," Pappas claimed in a July 23 letter to Birotte. "Just days after receiving the lis pendens and notice of the federal lawsuit to take her property, [one landlord] went to the hospital for cardiac issues because of the stress. Her husband . . . told me multiple times he wasn't breaking any laws when I first met him."

One client, Pappas wrote, cried during his first meeting with her, while another landlord was "inconsolable" after learning the feds planned to seize his building. After a couple of months and the immense stress, Pappas wrote, the man "looks like he's aged 20 years."

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17 comments
elpatricio
elpatricio

Thanks for the document work, OC Weekly. How many emails did you obtain? Will you upload them to the website? Were these obtained through FOI or discovery?

MasterUniverse
MasterUniverse

It's past time to go after these people.  Parham.  Welk.  Kokal.  We know who you are and we're coming after you.  Politically that is. 

Oh, and fuck you.  Assholes.

massvocals
massvocals

I also feel that there CSL was not asked for by the people but by Nixon  , a criminal thrown out of the president chair  so why are we still allowing  the DEA and others  who get there power in this war they made this is not a war but they made it one  and they attack regulation stores  so who must go  add the other D to DEA   dead  

massvocals
massvocals

I think we should go to war and protect the state  form the federal government and make laws upon any federal agent who come in to federally enforce  federal  law  which has a jurisdiction with the federal zone  like Washington DC  Not   within the state venue  The federal  agents  should and  will face death if they cause any mayhem under state allowed  law  Its time for the citizen to rise  this war is lie base on lies  and employment and money grants   its high time to end this  and cause the true nature of our system   we are 50 states  under an agreement of federal they are not king  the state people are king 

zenbuddha77
zenbuddha77

According to an extremely good friend of mine who lives in the LA area; every year that a referendum is placed on the ballot in CA asking if recreational use of pot should be allowed it is the medical pot people who work as hard as they can to keep non medical pot illegal. So eat your own bad karma, a..holes!

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

Industry making obscene black market profits needs to be shut down and scumbag phony dem government nullified by activism. I'm not talking about useless rallies and protests that only annoy people and make you look like loony leftists. I'm talking about a plant that is amazingly resilient and provides immense benefit to mankind. I'm talking about increasing the supply of this plant so as to ender the government out of power and the growers out of business. The same growers and dispensaries that want to keep this plant illegal in order to continue making obscene profits. Plant everywhere. Your neighbors yard , sides of the roads, national forests (screw the enviros, fire gonna burn all those native plants anyways). Take male pollen inside rite greens when they open back up. And get it into their fishbowl grow room. Will do alot more for the movement then a courthouse rally .

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

It would make the Feds look weak if Mr. Holder were to publicly admit that they can’t do squat about the new laws in Colorado and Washington. Also, he knows that less than 3 seconds after saying that they were going to use Federal powers to abrogate those laws that we would expose him as the bald faced liar that he is.

Mr. Holder is in a classic situation of Catch-22 and hoping that everyone just forgets about this particular controversy. I’d probably feel sorry for him if he wasn’t such a total dipstick. But in this case it couldn’t be happening to anyone more worthy of ridicule and disgust. Well, at the Federal level anyway.

ronie_lee49
ronie_lee49

I have known Marla for quite some time and to try to intimidate such a special person is beyond reason,but what else is new, with these  types self preservation means stepping on  every one elses  civil rights ,hang tough Marla,they are in their last stages of the fight and are being backed into a corner,their jobs are on the line and they will do anything they can to further careers.

JGlanton
JGlanton topcommenter

Where is the Choom Gang when the world needs them most? Obama still hangs with his homies when he goes back to Hawaii. They've got his ear. 

cherstream
cherstream

Our country is in a sad state when our public servants take delight in abusing their power and the public that pays their salaries.  Our public servants have nothing better to do with their time and resources than to go after wheelchair bound marijuana users?  Shameful!

dominelloc
dominelloc

Please forward this article to Sen. Leahy. This insanity has to stop. I mean, even Crazy Dana is on our side over this issue. It's just a plant that the FSM gave us to use.

JGlanton
JGlanton topcommenter

Still no policy from Holder:

When the committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), asked him about marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, Holder said the Obama administration is "still considering" how to respond. Last week he promised a policy "relatively soon," the same phrase he used in December. Around the same time, Leahy said he plans to hold a hearing on the issue this year.

MasterUniverse
MasterUniverse

Patrick Greg Parham - Bar Number: 140310     Address: US Attorney's Office

312 N Spring St 14th Fl
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Map it
Phone Number: (213) 894-6528 Fax Number: (213) 894-7177 e-mail: greg.parham@usdoj.gov  County: Los Angeles
Undergraduate School: California St Univ Fullerton; CA District: District 2     Sections: None Law School: Loyola Law School; Los Angeles CA

 
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