Days after helping Phoenix police take down violent gang members, the DEA has gone after a softer target: A medical marijuana club in Tempe.
Agents began showing up at the AZ Go Green Co-Op at 426 East Southern Avenue around 8 a.m., according to a news report by Channel 10 (KSAZ-TV). The "owners" of the club, says the report, are Rachael Beeder and James Chaney.
A doctor at the clinic, James Eisenberg, left a note on the door saying he'll be out till October 1st.
We'll get more info on this story later today, but a cursory look at the Web shows that a Dr. James Eisenberg works (or worked) with California medical marijuana clinics in Venice and Hollywood, including one called Pacific Support Services. A CBS news report from February of 2009 mentions how a local affiliate went undercover at Eisenberg's shop, noting his lax exams and recommendations for young people complaining of minor ailments.
Arizona Medical Board records show Eisenberg has been licensed in Arizona since August of 2009, with no complaints on file.
The problem here is simple: Arizona voters passed the medical marijuana act last November expecting to see medical marijuana dispensaries, but Governor Jan Brewer thwarted that legal election and derailed the dispensary program. If the compassion clubs are also shut down, medical marijuana patients -- now totaling more than 11,000, according to the most recent report on the Arizona Department of Health Services Web site -- won't have a legal place to obtain their medicine.
We stopped by the club. It was closed and nothing was going on there, as expected. The big excitement occurred yesterday morning. An employee of a nearby business told us he saw four agents raiding the place dressed in full "SWAT-gear," including assault rifles, body armor and masks. It's unclear why the DEA dressed as if they were going after Los Zetas instead of medical marijuana doctors, patients or caregivers.
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The employee said he and other business owners knew the place had been operating in the small complex of offices, but he hadn't seen or heard of any problems related to the Co-Op. That makes sense, considering recent evidence that closing -- not opening -- a medical marijuana clinic increases crime.
We called the DEA's public information officer, Ramona Sanchez, about a half an hour ago. We'll include her comments and information about this raid if she calls back.
The DEA's Web site contains no information about the bust, though it does tout the recent take-down of "violent street gang members." Our guess is that the Co-Op raid won't be touted in similar fashion -- it's nothing to be proud of, and unlike busting violent gangstas -- which nobody opposes -- raids on pot clinics have more to do with politics than public safety.
UPDATE #2: 5 p.m. and no call back from Ramona Sanchez of the DEA.