Friday, October 7, 2011

U.S. attorneys target California's MMJ industry

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2011 at 3:35 PM

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Following up on yesterday's quick post, today in Sacramento four California U.S. attorneys announced "coordinated enforcement actions targeting the illegal operations of the commercial marijuana industry in California," says a news release from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"The statewide 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," says the release. "That industry has swelled to include numerous drug-trafficking enterprises that operate commercial grow operations, intricate distribution systems and hundreds of marijuana stores across the state — even though the federal Controlled Substances Act makes illegal the sale and distribution of marijuana."

As the news releases poured into my inbox, clearly there was significant backlash from the marijuana community.

"How can the Obama administration say that it's fine for sick people to use this proven medicine, and yet tell them they can’t have any legal place to get it?” says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, in one release. “The end result of the federal government's policy is to ensure that medical marijuana is sold illegally in most parts of the country, as well as to create needless suffering for patients who can't find a place to buy medical marijuana.”

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Neill Franklin also weighed in on the Obama administration's toughened stance in an e-mail.

"This is much worse than reneging on a campaign pledge or being bad politics at a time when 80 percent of the public supports medical marijuana. This crackdown is going to endanger public safety. The fact is, people in California and the other states with medical marijuana laws are going to use their doctor-recommended marijuana whether the Department of Justice likes it or not," Franklin writes. "The only question is if we're going to force patients to buy their medicine from the violent black market or if we would rather them obtain labeled and tested product from a safe, state-regulated facility that pays taxes."

The four U.S. attorneys list their enforcement efforts as such:

• Civil forfeiture lawsuits against properties involved in drug trafficking activity, which includes, in some cases, marijuana sales in violation of local ordinances.

• Letters of warning to the owners and lien holders of properties where illegal marijuana sales are taking place.

• Criminal cases targeting commercial marijuana activities, including arrests over the past two weeks in cases filed in federal courts in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno.

"Large commercial operations cloak their moneymaking activities in the guise of helping sick people when in fact they are helping themselves," says Benjamin Wagner, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, in the release. "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.”

"None are immune from action by the federal government," adds Melinda Haag, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California and subject of a prior fear-causing memo.

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