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Medical Pot Providers Are Targeted

U.S. agents raid homes and dispensaries, and arrest a doctor and her husband. The couple allegedly conspired to distribute marijuana.

June 23, 2005|Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Federal drug agents launched a crackdown on medical marijuana providers Wednesday, charging a husband and wife in Sacramento and raiding more than 20 San Francisco dispensaries.

In San Francisco, agents conducted searches of three pot clubs and more than 20 homes and businesses, capping a more than two-year investigation into an alleged trafficking ring.

Drug Enforcement Administration officials and the U.S. attorney's office would not say how many people were arrested or give other details, pending a news conference today.

In Sacramento, Dr. Marion Fry, 48, and her husband, attorney Dale C. Schafer, 50, were arrested on a sealed indictment handed down a week ago. The document charges them with conspiracy to grow and distribute marijuana between August 1999 and September 2001 from their storefront California Medical Research Center in Cool, a Sierra foothill community northeast of Sacramento.

"Marijuana was legal in this part of the United States until this month, so any attempt to hold them as serious criminals would have been, I think, inappropriate," said their attorney, Laurence Lichter. "They are charged with violating the old marijuana laws, which are now back in effect, and I'm hoping that the jury will see ... that Dr. Fry was acting as a physician."

Law enforcement officials in Sacramento and San Francisco said the actions were unrelated and were part of independent, long-running investigations.

Lichter, however, said he thought Wednesday's arrests and sweep may have been prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court's medical marijuana ruling two weeks ago. The high court said federal law prohibiting the sale and distribution of narcotics superseded state medical marijuana laws.

California is one of 10 states that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

State Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer supports California's medical marijuana law, but his Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement was involved in the San Francisco investigation, spokeswoman Teresa Schilling said.

"It's more than medical marijuana. This was an illegal marijuana operation," she said.

Gordon Taylor, the assistant special agent in charge of the Sacramento DEA office, alleged that Fry and Schafer also crossed that line. The indictment says the couple were growing more than 100 plants during the period in question.

"They were taking their [medical] clients and turning them into their customer base" for illegal marijuana sales, Taylor said.

Both were freed without posting bail after an initial court hearing Wednesday.

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