In the latest effort to deter California’s booming medical marijuana industry, federal authorities filed property forfeiture lawsuits and sent warning letters to 34 individuals in Los Angeles County this week. Federal prosecutors say the crackdown is an attempt to reduce the number of illegal marijuana suppliers who are overstepping their boundaries while operating under the protection of California’s state medical marijuana law.
According to US Attorney Spokesman Thom Mrozek, federal authorities have targeted 220+ dispensaries within the Central District of California, which is comprised of seven counties. In fact, this specific district is home to the largest jurisdiction of federal law enforcement agents in the United States. Even so, despite having an enormous presence in this area, Mrozek admits that there were so many dispensaries present in central California that they “could not go after all of them at once.” As a result, federal authorities have begun systematically combing through the Central District of California in order to cut down on the number of dispensaries that are currently in operation.
Property forfeiture lawsuits were issued Monday in the U.S. District Court of Los Angeles against two buildings in the Santa Fe Springs suburbs. One of the properties is home to two different medical marijuana dispensaries. 34 property owners/store operators in and around Los Angeles also received warning letters that gave them two weeks to comply with federal law or be subject to civil/criminal prosecution. Obviously, when faced with these types of threats most dispensary operators and building owners are going to comply.
This crackdown is just the latest in a series that has taken place during the past two years, despite President Obama issuing promises that the federal government would no longer target medical marijuana dispensaries or their patients. Although California voted to decriminalize medical marijuana 16 years ago (in 1996) with the passing of Proposition 215, the federal government has been in strict opposition of this decision, and in recent years has begun taking action against dispensary owners/operators.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris expressed disagreement with the federal crackdown campaigns in a New York Times interview in November of 2011, stating that federal authorities are “ill-equipped” to determine which dispensaries are violating or taking advantage of the law. Even so, Mrozek holds the position that federal authorities are targeting specific dispensaries whom they feel are operating as “for-profit enterprises” rather than as primary caregivers.
Nonetheless, each year the medical marijuana industry continues to expand in California, and in the 16 other states (ironically including our nation’s capital – Washington D.C.) that have also voted to decriminalize the medicinal use of cannabis. Given the fact that every day there are more people deciding to grow their own medicine, and each month there are more dispensaries being established, many medical marijuana proponents feel that the federal government is fighting a losing battle and wasting absurd amounts of money and resources in the process.