UPDATE– Yesterday, four U.S. attorneys announced, at a Sacramento news conference, their actions to target the sale, distribution and cultivation of marijuana.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, who represents California’s Central Valley, said not all of the thousands of storefront pot dispensaries thought to be operating in California are being targeted.
Federal officials will go after dispensaries located close to schools, parks, sports fields and other places where there are a lot of children and what Wagner termed “significant commercial operations.” He said that includes farmland where marijuana is being grown.
On Wednesday Federal prosecutors in California ordered 16 medical marijuana dispensaries to close including one in Marin County, north of San Francisco, three spots in San Francisco and a dozen down in San Diego. Threatening letters were sent to the dispensaries and their landlords threatening that they have 45 days to vacate due of zoning issues. They also threatened “civil forfeiture lawsuits against properties involved in drug trafficking activity”.
Wagner disputed recent reports claiming that letters went to owners of every property where there is a marijuana dispensary, but he did say, according to CNN, that all dispensary owners and their landlords should be “on notice” that their property could be seized under federal law.
“Our objective is not to forfeit the properties, but to stop illegal activity,” said Wagner. “But if we have to … we will.” And, it looks like he’s keeping to his word as prosecutors this week filed seven civil forfeiture complaints against landlords they claim knowingly allowed marijuana stores to operate. One such complaint alleged that eight of 11 second-floor suites in some Orange County strip mall were used for such a purpose.
So far, according to Wagner, federal authorities “are not focused on backyard grows with small amounts of marijuana by seriously ill people. We are targeting commercial operations, which profit from growing and distributing … and often use the trappings of state law for cover, but in fact are abusing state law.”
The state law Wagner is talking about is the1996 California voter approved Proposition 215 that legalized medical marijuana throughout the state. It also allowed patients to grow their own weed for personal use and the ability to join a cooperative or collective where they could obtain medical marijuana. The bill, obviously didn’t legalize marijuana for everyone or it’s for-profit sale, but it did lead to a proliferation of dispensaries here in California.
“While California law permits collective cultivation of marijuana in limited circumstances, it does not allow commercial distribution through the store-front model we see across California,” said U.S. attorney Andre Birotte, during yesterday’s news conference.
U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole reiterated in a news release, “The actions taken today in California … are consistent with the (Justice) Department’s commitment to enforcing existing federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act, in all states.”
This doesn’t seem too consistent, but contradictory to Obama’s campaign promise about NOT busting dispensaries that are in compliance with state law or with what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, said back in February of ’09 about the same thing or what was clarified in October 2009’s Ogden memo, but the times they are a changin’.
We’re quite alarmed by this renewed federal effort to crack down on marijuana dispensaries, that in most cases complying with local and state laws. We’ll bring you continued coverage…if you have news or information you want to share PLEASE tweet at us, hit us up on FB or leave us a comment below.