Some 50 people, including four Berkeley city councilmembers, rallied Tuesday at the Maudelle Shirek Building, demanding that federal drug enforcement agents and the Los Angeles Police Department stay out of Berkeley and that the city become a sanctuary for medical marijuana distribution.
On July 30, the Los Angeles Police Department ordered the Bank of America to freeze the account of the Berkeley Patients Group, BPG Community Liaison Becky DeKeuster told the Daily Planet on Thursday. “And on Aug. 1, the U.S. Marshall seized the assets” as indicated by cashier’s checks, DeKeuster said.
And on Thursday when BPG administrators looked at the bank account on line, they saw a debit issued at $9.9 million. “We’re not sure what that’s about,” DeKeuster said, assuming that it means that any funds deposited would immediately be seized.
The $4,500 funds that were in the bank were to pay for the group’s hospice and other programs for BPG patients, DeKeuster said.
Seizing the BPG funds comes on the heels of a DEA /LAPD raid July 25 on 10 medical marijuana distributors in Los Angeles, in which agents entered the medical marijuana dispensaries and seized medicine and equipment. Among the L.A. dispensaries targeted was the California Patients Group that has ties to the BPG.
Wednesday, a DEA spokesperson in Los Angeles said she could not confirm or deny whether the DEA had a hand in freezing the account, although an LAPD spokesperson later confirmed what DeKeuster said Thursday—that both agencies were involved.
“From what I hear, [the BPG] is associated with the dispensary down here,” Sarah Pullen, DEA-Los Angeles spokesperson told the Daily Planet. The federal search warrant is under seal, she said.
On Thursday, BPG attorney William Panzer told the Daily Planet he is waiting to see the warrant through which the funds were seized. The only reason a warrant can be under seal is if it would reveal the name of an informant, he told the Daily Planet. And even then, the DEA can blank out the name of informants before they turn over the records, he added.
“I hope we can adopt a resolution calling for Berkeley to be a sanctuary city where patients can be safe from disruption from the Nazi tactics of the federal government,” said Councilmember Darryl Moore, speaking to the Daily Planet before the Tuesday rally.
Moore and Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Max Anderson and Linda Maio all spoke at the rally, condemning the DEA action.
The four councilmembers plan to pre-sent an ordinance when the council reconvenes in September calling on the city and county law enforcement officials “not to assist in the harassment, arrest or prosecution of physicians, medical cannabis dispensaries, individual patients, or their primary caregivers,” complying with Proposition 215, which permits the distribution of cannabis for medical purposes.
DeKeuster said she hopes the city will provide the dispensary with a safe city-owned space to provide services.
“The federal government should stop messing with sick people here and in the state,” Moore said.
Mira Ingram, who suffers from neuropathy, arthritis and a paralyzed digestive tract, was at the Tuesday rally. She has a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana.
“I can’t tolerate regular painkillers,” she told the Daily Planet.
“Nothing else can relieve neuropathic pain,” added her partner Naomi Finkelstein.
Both Finkelstein and Ingram use motorized wheelchairs to get around.
“How dare the DEA come to Berkeley, the seat of the disabled rights movement,” Finkelstein said. “We want our City Council to protect the disabled in Berkeley.”