SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Federal prosecutors have launched a crackdown on pot dispensaries in California, warning the stores that they must shut down in 45 days or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property even if they are operating legally under the state’s 15-year-old medical marijuana law.

In an escalation of the ongoing conflict between the U.S. government and the nation’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry, California’s s four U.S. attorneys sent letters Wednesday and Thursday notifying at least 16 pot shops or their landlords that they are violating federal drug laws, even though medical marijuana is legal in California. The attorneys are scheduled to announce their coordinated crackdown at a Friday news conference.

Their offices refused to confirm the closure orders. The Associated Press obtained copies of the letters that a prosecutor sent to 12 San Diego dispensaries. They state that federal law “takes precedence over state law and applies regardless of the particular uses for which a dispensary is selling and distributing marijuana.”

“Under United States law, a dispensary’s operations involving sales and distribution of marijuana are illegal and subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions,” letters signed by U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy in San Diego read. “Real and personal property involved in such operations are subject to seizure by and forfeiture to the United States … regardless of the purported purpose of the dispensary.”

The move comes a little more than two months after the Obama administration toughened its stand on medical marijuana following a two-year period during which federal officials had indicated they would not move aggressively against dispensaries in compliance with laws in the 16 states where pot is legal for people with doctors’ recommendations.

The Department of Justice issued a policy memo to federal prosecutors in late June stating that marijuana dispensaries and licensed growers in states with medical marijuana laws could face prosecution for violating federal drug and money-laundering laws. The effort to shutter California dispensaries appears to be the most far-reaching effort so far to put that guidance into action.

“This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The Administration is simply making good on multiple threats issued since President Obama took office,” Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to the president’s drug czar who is a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Substance Abuse Solutions. “The challenge is to balance the scarcity of law enforcement resources and the sanctity of this country’s medication approval process. It seems like the Administration is simply making good on multiple statements made previously to appropriately strike that balance.”

Greg Anton, a lawyer who represents a Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, said the 14-year-old dispensary’s landlord received an “extremely threatening” letter Wednesday invoking a federal law that imposes additional penalties for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and playgrounds.

The landlord was ordered to evict the pot club or risk imprisonment, plus forfeiture of the property and all the rent he has collected while the dispensary has been in business, Anton said.

The Marin Alliance’s founder “has been paying state and federal taxes for 14 years, and they have cashed all the checks,” he said. “All I hear from Obama is whining about his budget, but he has money to do this which will actually reduce revenues.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (55)
  1. jess says:

    pot is going back to the black market. thanks more to me and the mexican cartel.

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  2. loli says:

    LOL ,this will end up bad i assume ,people in america are not sheeps ,they already now hate the governments and blame the “illuminati” (who ever what ever,dont believe in that etc) so if you ask me ,America is making big mistake with closing those dispensaries ,im not American tho ,but in my state we also some disperncirts and if someone will take theme off WOW people will get mad…..VERY MAD LOL

  3. The Blogger says:

    Hey man….

    The bottom line is that weed is weed…..

    It’s not medicine…..

    It’s for getting high. Hello?

    The Feds want their cut of the action.

    It’s ok to drink liquor. Socially acceptable is the correct term I guess.

    The bottom line is: Can we all get along?

    Give the Feds their cut & the problem goes away……….

    Puff Puff………..

    1. Christian Knight says:

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  4. Cliff says:

    The feds may have some crooked ones but they would rather bust you than take your money. I would rather see you busted hippie boy.

    1. elwood says:

      sad cliffy that people like you live in america i will pray for you cliffy

    2. Travis says:

      It’s people like you, Cliff, that insist on perpetuating static stereotypes that were archaically introduced to America shortly after the turn of the 20th century.

      Medical marijuana is a LEGITIMATE means of lessening pain, increasing appetite, and overall making life manageable for cancer patients and those recovering from other detrimental pain-centered illnesses.

      Feel free to enlighten the rest of us “hippie boys” as to why marijuana should be villified, but alcohol and cigarettes are ok. Oh that’s right, alcoholism is the NUMBER ONE most common mental illness in America and cigarettes hundreds of thousands annually.

      How many people die annually as a direct result of Marijuana use? Zero. Look it up. Perpetuate truth not ignorance. Do yourself and those around you a favor and get informed.

  5. mbee says:

    Lets see if I understand Federal priorities./ Crack down on legal pot sellers, while ignoring the fraud of the banks, ignoring the chicken farmers who sickened thousands, ignoring the illegals, ignoring a large number of regular criminals running around, ignoring graft in congress, ignoring the contractors ripping off the taxpayers on war materia. Oh yes, go after those evil pot houses,. Just a bunch of sick power mad crazies running the FBI while all those home grown Muslims occasionally try to blow us up. Oh yes, I forgot to add one FBI agent, a young up and comer told me, “I don’t like to go out of town, have you a case in town?”.

    1. elwood says:

      you got that right right on

      1. Laura Bauer says:


  6. Cancer Survivor says:

    People on Chemo really need cannibis. We need to stand up for our rights. The State laws do not mean anything according to the Federal Government. This is not about Pot heads, there are a lot of people with MS, Cancer, and major pain that are gettng relief from medical cannibis.
    Maybe the big drug companies don’t like cannibis, because it may eliminate some of their profit with Narcotics. The Federal Government needs to stay out of it and the State Government needs to regulate it better.

  7. lushrimbaugh says:

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  9. David Key says:

    How appalling, The Feds step up their assault to kill a revenue generating legal business that also reduces cartel activity, yet seem to turn a blind eye to the Prescription drug epidemic that is literally killing people.Put your efforts into destroying the Meth labs, cocaine, and heroin trafficking. No! Why? Because its too scary. Someone might get hurt doing that.. Lets pick the easy work. The work with zero resistance and a legitimate address.
    Sickening really, Total Disgust for the Agencies involved.

  10. free emery says:

    B.S. If the laws are ment to be broken f* u feds

  11. Ben Colarusso says:

    Well thats why there are woods and trees free land to walk ride on grow as well.

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