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The October 2001 raid of the CRC was devastating for Imler and the club’s members. In the summer of 2002, they went on a weeklong hunger strike to protest what they saw as draconian enforcement of the federal law by the Bush administration. Not only did they lose their initial investment and all the CRC’s assets, Imler was criminally prosecuted. "Scott had taken every measure possible to ensure the club could not be abused," says Ronald Kaye, a former federal public defender who represented Imler in his criminal case and the civil forfeiture action. "He knew that nothing should undermine his mission."
Imler was sentenced to one year’s probation in November 2003. In handing down his sentence, U.S. District Judge Howard Matz told Imler, who by then had been diagnosed with lung cancer, "This entire prosecution was badly misguided. To allocate the resources of the
DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to [prosecuting] you baffles me, disturbs me." Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles had by then intimated to Imler that they were simply following Ashcroft’s marching orders. U.S. Attorney Debra Yang never appeared to resist the mandate, however. Her staff pushed for jail time, and lost.
While Imler has moved on with his life, West Hollywood is still mired in forfeiture proceedings in federal court. Officials neither support nor oppose the cannabis clubs that have sprung up in place of the CRC. Wells Fargo has written off its share of the loan to the CRC. Recently, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real ruled in favor of the Justice Department’s seizing $300,000 from the city, "in the face of an exhaustive catalog of facts that shows the city had reason to believe it could not be subject to drug forfeiture laws," according to West Hollywood City Attorney Michael Jenkins. "I feel like Alice in Wonderland," Jenkins says. "It is particularly galling to know that there are more than 20 cannabis clubs operating all over the state, including here in West Hollywood."
Observers say it is remarkable that West Hollywood remained so loyal to the CRC, even after it became clear that Ashcroft was going to make an example of them. Whereas once they were on the forefront, now they must be passive, which goes against the city’s ethos. "There’s a level of integrity among the city’s leaders that is uncommon for public officials," Kaye says. "The city stood behind Scott and the CRC because they knew the organization was incorruptible. It took more commitment than supporting gay marriage. There was a risk of criminal prosecution. Now they’re getting screwed."
Reflecting on the ordeal from his home in Silver Lake, which he shares with his partner of 17 years, Imler says he suffered a loss of identity after the CRC closed. "I didn’t feel like a person at first," he says. "Cancer was actually a blessing. It broke the circuits in my mind and forced me back to zero. I thought I was going to die."
Yet he still has remorse over not reopening the CRC and continuing the fight. "A lot of people depended on us," he says. Perhaps his ministry of faith would bring him back to West Hollywood, it is suggested. "I would like nothing more than to be appointed to a church there," says Imler. Replies Duran, the mayor of West Hollywood, "We’d be delighted to have him back."