Strong-arm Chico

Dispensary raids give city a black eye

Judging by the sheer number of cops—more than 100—deployed last week to raid eight medical-marijuana dispensaries and 11 residences in the Chico area, you’d have thought the dispensaries were selling meth rather than a legal medicine.

That’s a lot of firepower for what was essentially a fishing expedition. From what we can tell, the authorities had little to go on, but that didn’t stop them from seizing computers and confidential patient records, money, cell phones and marijuana and freezing people’s bank accounts. It’s especially disturbing that authorities raided private homes, scaring their occupants and ripping up plants from legal growing plots. In one case the officers even raided the home of a family that has no connection to an operational dispensary. (See Meredith J. Cooper’s report above.)

The raids were clearly designed to intimidate dispensary operators—at considerable cost to taxpayers for all that overtime.

We’re not naïve. We know that not everyone who obtains a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana is using the herb for that purpose. But that’s OK. For more than 40 years millions of Americans have been smoking pot. Now, with a recommendation, they can obtain it at dispensaries, which is much safer than buying it on the black market.

That’s why the city of Chico is working to come up with a plan for allowing dispensaries. Council members seem to understand that legitimate medi-pot users need a way to purchase their medicine, and also that dispensaries are a better vehicle for marketing the product.

The authorities who launched this raid are on the wrong side of history. They’re trying to perpetuate a failed drug war even as the people of California are deciding that it’s far better to provide marijuana in a controlled, legal manner than to send people to prison for selling it.

In the process, the cops have given Chico a black eye up and down the state. Now it’s known as a city that uses strong-arm tactics to resolve what amounts to a public-policy issue.