See end of post for quick update about Med-Aid's decision to shut down.
Original Post, Aug. 7, 11:18 a.m.: Last Wednesday, 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 a group of disabled, sick and terminally ill Orange County residents who collectively smoke cannabis called Med-Aid.
The Weekly profiled the group last November when it was located in Anaheim, but after the DEA, working with city officials began closing locations in that city, it moved to Sunset Beach, until police parked a cruiser in front of the group's storefront there, forcing the group to move once again. The collective used to be called Patient Med-Aid, but after separating from grower Martin Modiano, now goes simply by Med-Aid.
Marla James, a wheelchair-bound activist with Americans for Safe Access, who is a member of Med-Aid, says the DEA agents served the group with a notice to close within 14 days or else face criminal prosecution--and adds that 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 for me."
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.
"We did our investigation and you are in charge," James says the agents told her. She denies being in charge of Med-Aid. "I don't run the collective, I just sit in the front and welcome patients and verify their records." But James says that despite the DEA's threats, she has no plan to stop operating the collective, which she claims is operating under state law and in an open manner.
In fact, James says, Med-Aid has been meeting with city officials to keep them apprised of their efforts. "We met with the city attorney," she says. "We sat down with Chief Small and he said the only violation we see is you are running a business without a license."
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She adds that the group has also given the city an ordinance that would allow Med-Aid to operate. "We spoke to three city council people and they are looking at the details of our proposed ordinance, and we are willing to put in the ordinance whatever they want us to," she says.
Despite the DEA's threats, James insists Med-Aid has no plans to shut down. "We take care of terminally ill people," she says. "We don't want to close down."
Update, Aug. 7, 4:25 pm: Well that was fast: According to Marla James, Med-Aid has now decided to comply with the DEA's demands and shut down next Tuesday, Aug. 13.