Feds threaten California dispensaries with imminent closure

Posted on October 7th, 2011 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , .

Shadow WatchFederal prosecutors this week warned several  California cannabis dispensaries they must close in 45 days or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property. At least 16 dispensaries or their landlords received letters stating that they are in violation of federal law. 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," according to the letters signed by US Attorney Laura Duffy in San Diego. "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 Justice Department issued a policy memo to federal prosecutors in June stating that dispensaries and licensed growers in states with medical marijuana laws could nonetheless face prosecution. The move to close California dispensaries appears to be the most far-reaching effort so far to put that guidance into action.

Greg Anton, attorney for dispensary Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax—the state's oldest—said its landlord received an "extremely threatening" letter Oct. 5 from Melinda Haag, US attorney for the Northern District of California. The letter invoked a federal law imposing additional penalties for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and playgrounds. The landlord was ordered to evict or risk 40 years imprisonment, as well as forfeiture of the property and all rent collected while the dispensary has been in business.

Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access said that going after property owners is not a new tactic. Five years ago, the Justice Department under President Bush made similar threats to about 300 Los Angeles-area landlords who were renting space to medical cannabis outlets, some of which were eventually evicted or closed their doors voluntarily. "It did have an impact," Hermes said. "However, the federal government never acted on its threats, never prosecuted anybody, never even went to court to begin prosecutions. By and large, they were empty threats, but they relied on them and the cost of postage to shut down as many facilities as they could without having to engage in criminal enforcement activity."

The San Diego dispensaries put on notice were the same 12 that city officials sued last month for operating illegally, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. A judge on Oct. 5 ordered nine of the targeted shops to close, while the other three shut down voluntarily, Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith added that US Attorney Duffy planned to issue warning letters to property owners and all of the 180 or so dispensaries that have proliferated in San Diego. (AP, Sacramento Bee, Oct. 7)

Photo by Hammer51012  


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