Feds explain medical marijuana crackdown
October 8, 2011
Federal prosecutors announced Friday that they’re using property seizures and criminal charges to crack down on California’s commercial medical marijuana dispensaries.
The top U.S. prosecutors in California said their enforcement effort “is aimed at curtailing the large, for-profit marijuana industry that has developed since the passage of California’s Proposition 215 in 1996,” the referendum that made California the first state to permit marijuana use for medical purposes.
“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 Andre Birotte, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, at Friday’s press conference.
Prosecutors said they would not be targeting truly sick people or those producing marijuana for people they are caring for as long as they have been following proper guidelines.
“Large commercial operations cloak their money-making activities in the guise of helping sick people when in fact they are helping themselves, said Benjamin B. Wagner, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California. “Our interest is in enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously sick people and those who are caring for them.
“We are making these announcements together today so that the message is absolutely clear that commercial marijuana operations are illegal under federal law, and that we will enforce federal law.”
As part of the coordinated effort, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles said they “have taken a series of actions against illegal commercial marijuana operations, including a building in South Orange County that houses eight marijuana stores and a trafficking ring that sold marijuana at its San Fernando Valley storefront, and sent marijuana to customers as far away as New York state.”
This weeks Los Angeles crack down included the arrests of six people who allegedly generated nearly $15 million in profits in only eight months for marijuana trafficking, the civil forfeiture of three commercial properties and a related seizure of more than $135,000 from the bank account of one property owner.
In addition to the criminal case and the forfeiture actions, the United States Attorney’s Office sent dozens of letters Thursday to people affiliated with 38 marijuana stores in selected cities across southern California.
Those receiving letters – the owners of the buildings where the stores are allowed to operate, as well as some owners of the illegal stores – are warned that the stores are operating in violation of federal law and that they have two weeks to “take the necessary steps to discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana” at the stores or risk losing their property.