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tv   Al Roker Reporting  MSNBC  July 23, 2011 3:00am-4:00am PDT

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and the more we expand, the more space we have for instruments and musicians to come play them. rock n roll will never die. how can the plum card's trade terms get your business booming? booming is putting more music in more people's hands. jtsds wrefrt ever. you'll never guess where they're growing it. >> i don't think i don't think the public realizes these people are here. >> could it be if your neighborhood. >> would people be surprised to know their next door neighbor could be a grower? >> not anymore. >> medical marijuana. >> plus, some people call it a
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wonder drug. >> it was the only thing that alleviated my symptoms. >> a battle brewing in california. >> it is a wild west right now. >> this man could face the rest of his life in prison. >> i'll lose everything if they take me to jail that day. >> why some say are marijuana laws aren't working. >> the prohibition of marijuana is much more harmful to the user and to society than the actual use of marijuana. >> marijuana, 100 million americans have tried it. and yet it remains one of the most controversial drugs. effectively outlawed in 1937, it's become a multibillion dollar industry with a steady demand and no shortage of supply. in fact, sometimes you nooent look any further than the house next door to find it growing.
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7:30 in the morning miami, florida. >> go out -- >> agents of the drug enforcement agency, dea and police gather in a parking lot to get briefed on the day's mission. >> going to go to 128 -- >> the plan to hit a list of homes they suspect are marijuana grow houses. >> the registered owner doesn't live at the address. >> they have no idea what or who they'll find. >> anybody have any questions? get your guns. >> every scenario we approach with the same amount of safety. we don't know who's on the other side of the door. >> while much of the city is still waking up, the agents drive ten cars deep on to quiet suburban streets where they say secret grow houses blend in with the house next door. >> this is a nice neighborhood. nice looking homes. decent backyards. would people be surprised to
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know that there are growers -- their next door neighbor could be a grower? >> not anymore. now it's quite common. >> police. >> tony says grow houses while not a new phenomenon are increasing in size and scope. and the typical indoor grower is about 100 to 150 plants is a muld operation. each plant yields about a pound of marijuana worth at least $3500 on the miami streets. and can be harvested three to four times a year. >> florida unfortunately is the nation's capital for grow houses. on the books right now this year we have over 700 grows and we're looking at 1,000 by the end of the year. while marijuana generally has a reputation as a mild drug, it's illegal cultivation is serious business. oftentimes involving organized crime. case in point, in 2006, south
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florida police bust a huge marijuana growing operation in the unassuming suburb of port st. louisy, florida, involving 59 houses in all. >> what set this investigation apart from so many other grow houses that we encounter was the breadth, the level of organization, and the degree of sophistication. >> the operation was mather minded and financed by a new jersey business that recruited mostly cuban immigrants with an irresistible sales pitch, live in a new home all expenses paid just one catch. >> under the relocation package each homeowner agreed to maintain a grow house for a minimum of two years. after which is homeowner had the right to sell the house if he sho wished and split the gains 50/50. >> the grower got a quarter share of the profits. some houses earning up to $5 million worth of pot a year. 35 suspects were brought in on
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federal drug charges and those kwishted faced as much as 20 to 40 years in prison. you get calls from people in the neighborhood. >> >> yes. quite often neighbors will become suspicious and call the hotline. >> but on this day, the dea is working on tips from informants and other sources doing what's known as knock and talks. searches which require the owner's consent. is that a successful tactic? will people let you come into their house if they're growing stuff inside? >> quite often, yes. you'd be surprised. >> why? >> a lot of times people are cooperative with law enforcement more so than any other reason i believe they think they know we're on to them and they say,off got me. come on in. >> outside, if no one's home, the agents look for certain telltale signs. spikes in electricity, extra air-conditioning units and homes that don't have that lived in look. after a few minutes' search,
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agents rule out this house. >> it was clean. there was nothing there. >> but towards the end of the day, the agents think they may have something. >> right now we're waiting on the canine to see if he can detect anything. the dog's trained to detect the smell of marijuana. he's the best tool we have to detect that. >> dea agent janet said she became suspicious from the search as the owner rushes her from room to room. >> i've never seen anybody going through the house that quickly. every door was closed we went through the house in three seconds flat. >> once inside the bathroom her ears perked up. >> we could hear blowers there's no blower attached. you can see all the drywall that's been torn down to help put the grow up there. >> the give away a ladder in a clothes closet with a tile in the ceiling carved out. once they climb the ladder and move the ceiling tile, it leads to an attic that leads to
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another tiny room. in it a marijuana grow. but not the size they're expecting. >> this is a relatively small indoor grow. 11 plants. maybe about ten inches to a foot tall. they're not seedling plants. they're getting started. >> he says even this small grow can yield a surprising amount of money. >> these little plants are deceiving. once they grow to maturity, they will yield in less than three months 11 pounds of marijuana. worth over $50,000. >> there are those who would say you're putting all this effort into this, why don't you concentrate on the bigger drugs, cocaine, heroin, meth amphetamine, prescription pills is this a good use of time and resources for the dea? >> this is an excellent use. we're targeting everything. all the drugs you just mentioned. >> most people would say hey, look, it's marijuana, what's the big deal? >> it's more potent now than
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ever. the days of the former arguments about it being a mild drug that everybody uses, those days are over. >> he says controlled conditions and sophiscated growing techniques have made marijuana tronger and therefore more dangerous. the government considers it a gateway to more serious drugs and spends millions of dollars a year on marijuana law enforcement. pro marijuana groups argue in the cases of more potent pot users adjust their intake and smoke less. they say there's no evidence that marijuana leads to harder drugs. as for the government's war on marijuana, they say it's expensive and has had little effect on the millions of users. >> a a drug war raging in our national parks and forests. >> kept thinking if i turn my back, i'm going to get a bullet in the back of my head. it's salonpas. this is the relief i've been looking for.
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my thought was this is a stupid way to die. many the middle of the nevada desert over marijuana. >> october 2008, three booilgss were surveying streams and terrain in a remote part of northern nevada. >> here's our footprints right here. >> they walked three mills through a canyon when something eamidst the brown and gray desert stood out. >> there was a plant that caught my attention. it was extremely green, five or six feet tall and looked out of place. >> one of our co-workers said is this what i think it is? yeah it's marijuana. >> the men two of whom wished to remain unidentified thought little of it. a few feet further down they saw another plant. >> he said it looks like it was
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cut and placed there by somebody. i got a knot in my stomach. >> suddenly two armed men leapt up from behind sage brush. >> it was right here that the two men popped up a little to our left over here. >> they didn't say a word which made me more frightened. i could tell that they were hayes panic. >> i dropped my walking stick right here. we put our hands in the air. started saying no, no, no. and started speaking spanish and telling them who we were. >> seconds later a third man named tony i merged with a rifle. he spoke to them in english. >> he continued to interrogate us, asked us who we were. i kept thinking if i turned by back, i'm going to get a bullet in the back of my head. >> after ten minutes of negotiating, the growers left the biologists go. >> here's an example of the trays. >> the next day when law enforcement rode in, the growers were gone. they left behind everything, food, shoes, clothes, trash and
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800 marijuana plants worth an estimated $5 million. a relatively small group compared to those scene in the thousands of california, washington and oregon. while face-to-face encounters with illegal growers aren't common, the situation represents an alarming trend. armed and dangerous dtos, drug trafficking organizations harvesting marijuana on public lands and remote areas of the country's national parks and forests. >> it's a big problem and it seems to be et ging worse. >> mark is a special agent in charge with the bureau of land management in nevada. >> we hear all the news reports about, you know, all the drug wars going on on the border right now, the murders and shootings. i don't think a lot of the public realizes that these people are here. >> in fact, the office of national drug control policy estimates 65% of the marijuana grown in the u.s. is grown on public lands. the vast majority by mexican ar
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cartels. they grow here because it's gotten tougher to smuggle marijuana across the border. >> somebody came up with the idea that we'll smuggle in our people to grow the marijuana and it cuts down a lot of lo jitsices. now, they grow it and they sell it here. >> usually, the men tending to the fields camp out next to the grow for three to four months at a time. >> you can see they have coffee back here. sugar, a lot oof supplies. all the staples. these individuals are staying out here for a long time. >> in addition to flood and supplies, they typically haul in miles of hoses to set up elaborate irrigation systems. enter the water pressure that you can build up on these things, pretty impressive. that's a good example of the water out of the creek. >> they use tarps to camouflage their activity. >> this was the main processing area. these tarps were all -- it was like an encloudsed structure.
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maybe 20 by 35 foot structure. almost impossible to see from there. >> once law enforcement spots the fields, the growers hear the helicopters and run. the occasional arrest rarely leads to the top guns. >> unfortunately most of the time those arrests are low level garden workers that don't really know anything. they don't know who the big bosses are. >> but rafael reyes knows all to well. >> the most ruthless, violent individuals and/or organizations in the world today. these cartels will do mig. will stop at nothing. >> reyes says marijuana is the cartel's cash cow. cheap to grow and extremely profitable. >> the true and tried method of making mup has been marijuana. it allows them to further their basis of operations into other
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drugs. for example, cocaine, heroin, meth. they're all fuelled by the proceeds generated through marijuana. >> and if mexican cartels are our biggest foreign supplier, then the united states consumer is their number one customer. >> that casual consumer doesn't realize what he her she is contributing to indirectly. our guys in mexico are fighting a war. cops are being killed day in and day out. police officers that are being kidnapped, tortured and murdered to intimidate and break the will of the people. >> these mexican drug cartels how much money are we talking about conservatively? >> in the billions and billions of dollars. >> each year? >> each year. if you're selling it on the street, how much would this bring? >> in the northeast region about approximately $100,000. >> this one package? >> that one package. one you consider the fact to pru uh-huh produce that was a couple hundred dollars. >> that's an amazing profit
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margin. >> the dea says the cartels are inventive when it comes to ways to keep those profits. not only are they operating on public lands, they are building elaborate tunnels that extend underneath the border for almost a half a mile. >> from your bisic hole in the ground to now highly sophisticated tunnels that have lighting systems in it, oxygen, have railroad tracks. >> whoa, railroad tracks? >> railroad tracks. >> an endless cycle of drugs, money and violence. one that a marijuana policy reform lobby says could be stopped in its tracks if marijuana were legalized, taxed and regulated here like alcohol. >> right now in california you don't see drug cartels from mexico setting up and growing grapes. they're not growing grapes to make wine to sell it because it's a regulated market. profit margin is relatively low because it is regulated and someone who wants to grow grapes can get a license and do it.
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>> the marijuana policy project insists marijuana is much safer than alcohol and tobacco and should be treated in much the same way. cartels they say would have little incentive to be here if there's no money to be made. >> it makes perfect sense to end the marijuana prohibition that we've seen on the books since 1937. yes, there will be problems with marijuana use. some people will abuse it, but the prohibition of marijuana is much more harmful that to the user and to society than the actual use of marijuana. >> one added benefit according to the marijuana policy project, if prohibitionen ended and marijuana were taxed and regulated, they estimate the combined savings and revenues could be somewhere between $14 and $40 billion a year. marijuana as medicine. >> it was the only thing that alleviated any of my symptoms. whoa.
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in 2008, the u.s. spent more than $13 million on marijuana
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eradications seizing some 4.6 million plants on public lands alone. aside from the public safety hazard, they say illegal marijuana grows endanger wildlife and the environment. among the fertilizer and food the areas are littered with animal remains. >> we found this in the cultivation site. it's a bear paw. it's been cut at the wrist. one of the digits has been cut off. >> the government doesn't have enough resources to clean up the mess. >> stay back around the perimeter. >> so they rely on volunteer groups like the high sierra trail crew. months after that 12,000 plant grow was found in se kwoi ya national forest, the crew haul flies back to haul out the trash. the mess is practically untouched. >> here's what's left of some form of a rifle. >> the team discovers multiple propane tanks. >> these are a major hazard. if a fire was to start in this
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area, an unsuspecting fire crew that might march into here could walk into the path of something that would explode or potentially shoot flames ten or 15 miles away. >> they find test sides and chemicals some that are outlawed in the united states. >> we don't know the long-term effects of these chemicals into our water system. these go into the to feed streams, a lot of people are ingesting these pesticides. >> he and his team average 12 to 15 marijuana grow sites a year. and have just been handed 160 more. >> for every site that they find there's four that they don't find. there's probably another 500 out here that nobody even knows about. >> for him, marijuana's not a political issue, it's a personal one. >> i grew up in the mountains. i love the mountains. to see this it really repulses me. >> medical marijuana, a whole new world in california. where you can buy it in ice
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vrch. here's what's happening. a massacre in norway. a gunman killed 890 people at a youth camp ruled by the labor party. these attacks occurred after a bomb exploded outside government offices in oslo killing sen. back here at home a break down at talks aimed at lower the deficit. president obama and john boehner accused each other of walking away from deals that could have resolved the crisis. now back to our program. 13 states have passed laws decriminalizing marijuana for medical use. but no state is like california. the only one with more than 300 dispensaries. places where people with doctors's recommendations can openly go to buy it. while organizations like the american college of physicians
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are calling for further research into numerous, potential medical uses for marijuana, the food and drug administration says it has no accepted medical value. and in the eyes of the federal government, it remains illegal in any form. so how does this all play out in california? long considered ground zero of the medical marijuana movement? >> this is the future. >> at the pharmacy, a dispensary in westwood, california. general manager bill hay he says the doors are open. >> i don't feel that we have anything to hide or anything to be embarrassed about. >> here with a doctor's recommendation, you can buy medical marijuana or cannabis in just about any form you like. in gentlemen lat toe, in chocolate bars, in cold drinks, even lollipops. >> there are three xs on this cake. there are three doeszages of medicine in there. >> what would happen if somebody ate this whole piece of cake?
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it's got five doses of cannabis in it if they eat it all at once? >> they would be overmedicating. there have been zero deaths caused by cannabis. you cannot overdose. you may sleep pretty well that night. >> leahy says that the pharmacy doesn't make a profit and it abides by strict state laws buying from designated growers and selling only to those with a doctor's recommendation. >> there's a lot of documentation. >> oh, yeah. everything has to be completely documented. if there is no documentation or anything is out of line or don't have a california i.d. that's current. if they have it, if it's not current, we don't let them in. >> what's the difference between the stuff you buy on the street and the marijuana or cannabis you buy in here? >> everything we have here is organic. all of our caregivers that supply the cannabis for us have not added any pesticides or
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added anything to it to change the value to have medicine. what you buy in the street is hit or miss. >> you take what you get? >> you take what you get. >> at a dispensary customers can pick and choose from a high wide variety of high grade marijuana. >> they have the opportunity to open it up and get a sense of the aroma. >> yeah. that almost smells like a tea. >> according to americans for safe access, there are more than 200,000 people in california with a doctor's recommendation for marijuana. >> every doctor i talk to that i asked about it, coverage kags, they said that's the best thing to do. >> in a 2005 interview with "date loin's" stone phillips, melissa etheridge, a breast cancer survivor talks candidly about using medical marijuana every day during her chemotherapy.
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>> the drug for the pain constipates you, you have to take the constipation drug, then that gives you dee rhea. then you need a diarrhea drug. instead of five or six of the prescriptions i decided to go a natural route and smoke marijuana. i was doing a lot of it at the time for my pain and for my symptoms. and the minute i didn't feel it, i stopped. >> do you worry at all that talking about this from a medicinal standpoint might encourage recreational use? >> do i worry that it will be abused? >> yeah, vicodin is abused. everything that brings pain relief is abused. because vicodin is abused do they keep it away from people? no. they prescribe it. the laws on it prescribe it. >> it's an argument that's gaining ground across the country. but in a place like california where dispensaries advertise in
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magazine, access to marijuana is easier than ever. >> medical marijuana recommendations to have this as opposed to pharmaceuticals that's what the doctor wants to mablg sure everyone has access to if they need it. >> it's a whole new industry that caters to the very sick and people looking to get high legally. >> there's a lot of recreational users who have a license that they got from a doctor because these doctors that give medical marijuana evaluations, they call it, i don't know if they're turning anybody away. >> now i have a license. it says i can smoke pot. no one here has that. not in idaho. but you should. >> theodorian and marijuana user doug benson stars in "super high me" a movie that chronicles his pot smoking for 30 straight days. >> i agree if you feel like it helps you in your life and helps
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you feel better, anxiety or depression or you just like it, i don't see why you shouldn't have access to it. >> when it came to defining who should have access to it, proposition 215 the 1996 ballot initiate that decriminalized medical marijuana in california purposely left things vague. >> it listed approximately ten conditions, but then said or any condition agreed upon by the physician or the patient where cannabis could be helpful. that leaves it between the doctor and the patient which is where it belongs. >> dr. alan frankle practiced internal medicine for 26 years before dedicating 80% of his practice to medical marijuana. in over two years he saw 3400 patients. the average age close to 50. >> these patients are ceos, there's not one demographic. we have all the data. it's from everywhere. every income group. every education level.
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>> they come to him with a wild range of ailments from cancer and hiv to chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety. >> they come in and sometimes just can't believe this is really happening. and that it's legal. it works. patients are coming in, i'm a little better. i appreciate it. this has changed my life. >> what most people never realized, he says is that there are two different strains of medical marijuana. they work to treat different conditions. >> so now with the dispensing system we're able to get both. we're able to tell people which ones to use at which time. >> he acknowledges there are legal substitutes that do similar things, he says many people prefer pot's predictable side effects to prescription medications. >> i think most people agree if nothing else cannabis is extremely safe. so somebody comes in with some insomnia to try using cannabis before they go get sleeping
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pills, i think it's completely reasonable. >> frankle says patients don't necessarily need to smoke marijuana. in fact, it's better that they don't. >> it's clearly not the ultimate way to use it. >> he recommends tintures that were once available in the 1800s over-the-counter. >> you spray it into your mouth, two spritzes and the effect is about two hours. >> there are strips to put under your tongue and capsules as well. frankle believes this century's old medicine will one day become accepted in the future. but also because it keeps health care costs low. but the government view couldn't be more different. they say marijuana's harmful and the dispenries open up a can of worms for law enforcement. >> we have seen so many abuses from dispensaries issuing fliers at high schools, handing out free samples to kids to come and try their products. these dispens are not just
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dispensing marijuana under medical means. >> there are people who have abused the system, whether they're pharmacy operators or -- >> this is not a game. >> leahy says the pharmacy sells in limited quantities to prevent resale on the streets. one other things dispensaries in california pay taxes. while no exact data exists, last year the state board of equalization says dispensaries generated at least $11.4 million in sales tax. the board acknowledges the actual number is probably much higher. but despite many dispensaries complying with state guidelines, buying, selling cultivating or being in possession of marijuana for any reason is still a federal crime. >> people need to realize that
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there's no legal means for anyone to obtain marijuana. >> the dea says it doesn't go after patients or doctors, but they do target dispensaries which they say can be a magnet for crime and illegal drug traffickers. >> we need to look at who's supplying these individuals. where's the marijuana coming from. we're looking at dispensaries who are making huge amounts of money that may be being laundered through different means. we look at different aspects and determine who's the most egregious and try to target those criminals first. >> but protesters believe the dea goes after dispensaries who make the most noise. they take the money, the medicine and they don't arrest anybody. this is harassment. >> the u.s. supreme court says when the two laws conflict, federal law trumps state law. and the dea says this will continue to uphold federal law. >> we definitely believe we're having an impact, but because
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there are so many here in los angeles, it is a difficult task. >> for bill haley whose west hollywood store was raided in 2007, trying to operate a legitimate business in such murky territory is difficult, but worth the risk. are you worried each day about the dea coming in to shut you down? >> every day that we open those doors we practice civil disobedience. every day. does it worry me? sure. >> they put me on the ground there with a gun to my head. >> the feds raid his dispensary >> the feds raid his dispensary and his home. u.s.a.a. auto insurance is often haed down from generation to generation, because it offers a superior level of protection and because u.s.a.a.'s commitment to serve the military, veterans, and their families is without equal. begin your legacy. get an auto insurance quote.
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>> they put me on the ground
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july tath, 2007, the dea raids ten medical marijuana kis
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penceries throughout los angeles. is. >> why did do this to us? they bust the vending machine. >> the same day city leaders call for an end to the deas crackdown. >> our council people, our government, our state and city officials are voting to support medical marijuana patients and it's really, really important that the drks ea not go against the will of the people that voted this in. >> prior to the raids, the dea sends letters to more than 100 landlords of dispresencery tenants warning them that they risk property seize sure and possible imprisonment. >> our local government condemned the derks,as action for threatening landlords of med can cannabis dispensaries today and said they do not want the lapd cooperating with the derks a,. that the lapd has other crime they need to look after and medical cannabis is not a crime. >> it's a messy situation that
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continually plays out across california. >> it's crazy because it's legal to open up a dispensary. local law enforcement doesn't get involved. >> we're here for crowd control. >> but the feds come in and bust the places. it is the wild west right now here in california. >> to add to the confusion, it's not only the federal law that conflicts with state law. in california local laws and tolerance for dispensaries vary from county to county and city to city. in 2007, the controversy arrived in full force many the town of moro bay, california. a year earlier charles lynch a former software engineer had opened a dispensary called central coast cam passionate caregivers, the only medical marijuana facility within 100 miles. for years charles says he suffered from debilitating migraine headaches and drove long distances for the drug.
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>> i decided that we needed one in our local area not just for me but the patients in our area. >> charles' dispensary had the approval of the local city council and the town mayor, janice peters. >> it was very discreet. >> lynch was asked to join the chamber of commerce and for a time business ran smoothly. you felt you were doing everything by the book according to state law. >> yes, i felt definitely so. >> mayor peters agreed that lynch ran a tight ship and she never had a problem. >> i personally went around to every single business around the dispensary, gave them my card and said call the police, too, but please call me if anything concerns you or upsets you about this business. and i never had a single call in the almost year that they were there. >> but the local sheriff informs gaited the dispensary and said some community members did have some concerns. >> they didn't like the fact
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that there were people from all appearances did not give any signs of having any serious illnesses. so they felt that there was outward abuse of what the law intended. >> but one of charles' patients owen beck was 17 when he came to charles' dispensary with his dad. >> i vomited literally four times a day. >> owen beck was diagnosed with bone cancer his senior year of high school and began six rounds of rigorous chemotherapy. >> it's just terrible, terrible. it's dis gusting feeling all the time. they tried to give me medication and painkillers, but nothing worked. >> owen said he couldn't keep the pills down. his doctor recommended medical marijuana and owen talked about it with his dad. >> he was very open to it. he put political views aside this is my son, he needs to get better. we need to try anything. >> owen says he'd smoke four times a day and noticed the change immediately. >> it was the only thing that
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alleviated my symptoms. the nausea would go away. i could eat a small meal. it would relax me. >> a short time later, owen says medical marijuana became even more of a necessity when he had to have his leg am bu tated. >> the phantom pain is the worse. it feels like nails are being nailed into your entire leg. it's the worst experience i've ever had in my life. the marijuana did numb the pain a lot. >> back in moro bay, medical marijuana would become temporarily unavailable. early one morning in 2007, charles called up his secretary at the dispensary to tell her he was running late. >> she was frantic. she was telling me charlie, they're here. i said what? >> authorities arrested one of charles' employees for selling medical marijuana to undercover police agents miles from the dispensary.
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something charles knew nothing about. second later charles heard banging at his front door. >> search warrant, open up, search warrant. my heart just dropped and started pounding. he says open the door, we're going to bang it down. so i opened the door and about 15 guys with machine guns, bullet proof vests came barrelling in through my door. and they put me on the ground there with a gun to my head. >> the dea was raiding -- banging on your door the same time they were raiding the dispensary. >> deputies cared boxes of evidence from the dispensary around 2:30 this afternoon. the d,ea would not comment on what was inside them. >> back at charles' house he was handed a search warrant. >> actually after i read the search warrant i felt like they were hoping to find a big huge grow operation in my house. so i found a little bit of relief there. >> the dea walked away with
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charles' come computer, his personal medical marijuana supply and $27,000 he had in the house. but charles wasn't arrested and like many other dispensaries who were raided before, he reopened a short time later. >> in hindsight do you think maybe it would be better if you just shut down? >> well, actually i felt like i had a lot of people depending on me. there was a big question in my mind if i should reopen. i went to the city attorney of moro bay. he told me that, you know, that it was okay for me to reopen. >> the reopening was short lived. charles says the dea called his landlord and told him he risked having his property seized. so charles was forced to close his dispensary for good. >> you figure that's it. you're done. >> the dispensary was closed. i was looking for a new job a new project. >> but just as charles was looking for a fresh start, the derks,a and local sheriff came knocking again.
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>> they told me to step outside, told me i was under arrest for arrest for marijuana on the federal level. >> it's going to be okay. >> charles was charged with cultivating and conspiracy to distribute marijuana, operating a drug premises and selling to minors. his family put up $400,000 in bail while he awaited trial in an ankle bracelet for the next nine months. >> the charges against you, the government brings pretty serious. they said you sold marijuana to 250 minors, that you made $2.1 million in less than a year. >> actually can i address those one at a time as you go? my rules from the city were 18 or older unless accompanied by a parent. okay, but under federal law i found out that anybody under 21 is considered a minor. and so they used that law --
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they used that against me to make it sound like i was down on the streets in front of the schoolyard selling marijuana to minors. >> as for the $2.1 million? charles doesn't deny that might have been his gross proceeds from the business. he says he never profited from his dispensary which would have been a violation of state law. he says the $2.1 million number didn't account for any of his expenses like paying for the marijuana, payroll and rent. but the number of customers particularly young people buying marijuana didn't sit right with the local sheriff. >> the county has a population of about 263,000 people. we had over 2,000 individuals that were going to this facility had over 270 isses of needing individuals. those rge numbers based on our
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population just seemed to be out of whack. >>ed a charles's trial, owen beck now in remission was a character witness, but his testimony was cut short when he mentioned medical marijuana. the judge had ruled such evidence irrelevant under federal law. >> they didn't allow us to talk about the california state laws that allowed me to do this. they didn't allow us to talk about my business license or the 18 or older stuff. actually they didn't let us talk about a lot of things. >> do you feel like you got a fair trial? >> well, i don't think there was anything fair about federal court. >> after a two-week trial, the jury reached a verdict. >> couldn't believe it. >> charles lynch was found guilty on all counts. >> the majority of us felt like he was a nice man with good intentions who didn't stay within the parameters of the federal law. >> charles faced five to 85
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years in prison. >> they could take me away in cuffs right then and there. my car will be in the parking lot. my house will be the way i left it. i'll lose everything if they take me to jail that day. >> free charlie! >> sportsers rally. >> what happened to charles lynch is wrong. >> as charles lynch faces a steep prison sentence. your finances can't manage themselves. but that doesn't mean they won't try. bring all your finances together with the help of the one person who can. a certified financial planner professional. cfp. let's make a plan. helps defends against occasional constipation, diarrhea, steep prison sentence. water .
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thank you everybody for being here. >> it's the fall of 2008. and charles lirch is weeks away from sentencing for selling marijuana at his dispensary in moro bay, california. >> thanks, man. >> here at the medical marijuana expo, he's among supporters.
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>> i wish you well. >> thank you. >> in front of the pral courthouse -- >> if they can take charles lynch, they can take anyone in this crowd. we need charles to have another day in court. a fair day in court wechl need a new trial for charles lynch. >> i've never been an activist or nothing like that. but it is great to see people making signs and chanting. that was definitely a great day for me. >> but charles says the last few months have taken their toll. >> i'm about to lose my house. it's been difficult finding work. my financial situation is beyond bankruptcy. >> as charles nervously awaiting his fate, he sees one glimmer of hope, a change of administration. >> i'm kind of optimistic that with a new president hopefully
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in the coming weeks and coming months that there may be a policy change at the federal level regarding states' rights. >> barack obama has admitted trying and inhaling marijuana in the past. >> i did. it's not something i'm proud of. >> during the campaign, candidate barack obama said that federal raids on med can marijuana dispensaries would not be a high priority in his administration. he also said that when it comes to medical marijuana he would defer to states as long as it's based on medical research that it benefits patients and that it's controlled properly. but no matter what the government's view, it may take more than a change in policy to change people's minds about marijuana. >> i think pot is still illegal
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just because it's always been illegal. it's hard to turn people around to the notion of this thing that's always been wrong now we've decided it's okay or it's okay for some people like it just gets fuzzy. >> there's a lot of misinformation out there about what marijuana's effects and impact on our society are. i think the message that needs to get out there is that marijuana is a dangerous substance. we're trying to make our communities safer. >> most people don't get it until it hits home and then it's an advocate. that's true with everything. then all of a sudden, wow, a lightbulb comes on. a lightbulb needs to come on throughout the country. that's all for this edition of "al roker reporting." i'm al roker.


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