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When DEA agents escorted Mike and Valerie Corral away from their rural Santa Cruz County home on Thursday, the two had little reason to believe they’d be back home by bedtime. The Corrals, who run Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, were arrested for possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy to distribute 167 marijuana plants. During a pre-dawn raid, WAMM became the latest medical marijuana club busted in the Northern District this year. However, this raid bears a remarkable distinction from some others — the Corrals were released without charges being filed against them. And the Drug Enforcement Agency wants to know what happened. “I don’t know why,” DEA spokesman Richard Meyer said Friday. “I can give you a number for the U.S. attorney’s office and you can call them.” U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan referred a call to Jeffrey Cole, who heads the office’s drug enforcement unit. Cole said he could not comment on an investigation. WAMM’s lawyer, Santa Cruz solo Benjamin Rice, was also in the dark. “Have you heard anything?” he asked a reporter Friday. Speculation ran the gamut, including allegations that the government is simply gutting medical marijuana operations with no intention of ever bringing charges. It’s a “hit-and-run operation,” said Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Gerald Uelmen, who has signed on to help the Corrals. “I think it raises serious questions about misuse of the criminal process.” Oakland solo William Panzer, a veteran defender of drug prosecutions, also doubted charges would be brought. “I don’t think that they ever had any intention of bringing a case,” Panzer said. Meyer said the office had been working with a prosecutor, and the search warrant was signed by U.S. Magistrate Richard Seeborg, so the raid should not have come as a surprise to anyone in the U.S. attorney’s office. “I don’t know what to tell you,” Meyer said. Rice said he’s heard many rumors, including one that his clients had already been indicted by a grand jury. He also speculated that the government would use a civil injunction it recently obtained from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer preventing clubs from distributing marijuana. “That means that we don’t have the right to go before a jury to find out if they did anything wrong,” Rice said. Some speculate that federal prosecutors are reluctant to bring criminal charges in the Bay Area, where support for medical marijuana is strong. “The federal authorities are afraid of juries,” Uelmen said. Uelmen also said he was disturbed because at WAMM, patients must have a membership, which is limited to a small number of people, and help cultivate their own marijuana. Previously, the government has said it would only go after distributors. “This is disgusting,” Panzer said. “These guys are as clean as the driven snow.” Valerie Corral was prosecuted in 1992 but was found innocent after being the first person in California to challenge marijuana laws by arguing it was medically necessary. She was said to be attending one of several pro-medical marijuana rallies held at Bay Area federal buildings Friday. “Yes, we will survive the DEA’s raid and federal injustice,” she said on an answering machine at her home. “This injustice will not keep us from our work.” It was a trying raid for the DEA. After arresting the Corrals and driving them over Highway 17 to San Jose, the agency drove the pair back to their home later in the day when it became evident that no charges were forthcoming. While the Corrals were in custody, meanwhile, the situation at their home grew tense, according to several news reports. As agents searched the home, more than a dozen protesters showed up and prevented the agents from leaving. According to Meyer, a car was driven up to the front gate to block their exit. The Santa Cruz County sheriff’s office — which was not notified of the raid in advance and had been tolerant of WAMM — was called in to escort the DEA agents to safety. Santa Cruz county and city officials were furious at the developments. Several were quoted in the local newspaper condemning the raid. “[WAMM has] worked hand in hand with Sheriff [Mark] Tracy and other law enforcement officials to try to make WAMM something that would not make people mad and would be seen as a legitimate operation,” Rice said. Meyer said local law enforcement authorities were notified, but would not specify which. “In some jurisdictions, like Berkeley and even San Francisco, the local politicians have prohibited [local police] from working with us,” Meyer said. “The rank and file support us. They have certain masters to serve, and we don’t want to get them in trouble.” Associated Press contributed to this story. Reporter Jason Hoppin’s e-mail address is [email protected].

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