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Authorities Order Closing of Commercial Medical Marijuana Collectives in County

Warning is part of a new federal crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana industry.

Commercial medical marijuana collectives in San Diego County and throughout California must shut down within 45 days or face civil or criminal prosecution, federal prosecutors said Friday.

The warning is part of a new federal crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana industry, which includes huge commercial grow operations, intricate distribution systems and hundreds of retail stores in the Southland and across the state—even though the federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits the sale and distribution of cannabis.

Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney in San Diego, joined U.S. attorneys from Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco in announcing the crackdown.

Duffy said illegal marijuana grow operations often found flourishing on federal land create “significant negative consequences” and result in “a very serious public safety issue.”

Duffy said hundreds of warning letters had been sent to the operators and landlords of verified marijuana dispensaries and forfeiture actions were filed against properties where owners allow pot stores to operate.

Those receiving letters were warned that the stores are in violation of federal law and that they have less than two months to “take the necessary steps to discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana.”

“It is important to note that for-profit, commercial marijuana operations are illegal not only under federal law, but also under California law,” said Andre Birotte Jr, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles.

“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.”

The warning letters note that the operation of a marijuana store “may result in criminal prosecution, imprisonment, fines and forfeiture of assets, including the real property on which the dispensary is operating and any money you receive (or have received) from the dispensary operator,” Birotte said at a news conference in Sacramento.

The typical medical marijuana dispensary sells pot solely for the purpose of recreational use, he said, adding: “That is not what California voters intended.”

After his inauguration, President Barack Obama said the federal government would not prosecute medical marijuana users and caregivers. In 1996, California was the first state to decriminalize marijuana for medical use, although it has remained a federal crime to possess or sell it.

Medical marijuana advocates say the Department of Justice’s newly announced stance is “harmful and unnecessary” to patients who use the drug as part of their treatment regimen.

“Aggressive tactics like these are a completely inappropriate use of prosecutorial discretion by the Obama administration,” said Joe Elford, a lawyer with Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. “President Obama must answer for his contradictory policy.”

Also on Friday, Duffy announced the filing of charges in two separate cases related to the manufacture and distribution of marijuana.

In the first case, six people were charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and other counts stemming from an 18-month investigation that included wiretaps and search warrants executed on marijuana stores in San Marcos and Wildomar and on grow sites in Vista, Oceanside, Temecula, Lake Elsinore, Winchester and Menifee, prosecutors said.

In all, agents seized about 688 marijuana plants, more than 78 pounds of processed marijuana, nearly $23.000 in U.S. currency, 15 vehicles and a fishing boat, authorities said.

In the second case, three defendants were charged in connection with a marijuana growing operation that was uncovered during an ongoing investigation into an organization importing and distributing methamphetamine in San Diego County, prosecutors said.

Mark Anthony Hohn, David Alexander Drake and Deidira Anne Moore are charged with conspiring to manufacture 229 marijuana plants.

In addition to the plants, agents encountered security cameras, dogs, firearms, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and books on incendiary devices and how to run a marijuana grow operation, according to court documents.

—City News Service 

Summer Hemphill July 27, 2012 at 05:52 PM
The voters made it easy to become a patient 16 years ago & only another initiative approved by California voters can change it,that's the law ! If you don't like the law that's too damn bad,try to raise the funds needed to put an initiative to change it before the voters ! In the meantime the law is the law & it's about time you whiners abided by it ! While marijuana may in fact be illegal under federal law Congress gave Washington D.C. the right to open medical marijuana dispensaries & if marijuana is medicine there they'll be forced to allow states to follow suit. With legalization efforts way ahead in polls for the November elections in Oregon,Washington,Colorado & Detroit the antiquated federal policies will certainly have to bend to the will of the voters ! It's such a sure thing in Detroit that the pro-legalization forces aren't even mounting a campaign ! The vast majority of those opposed are just like Doug & hate marijuana & marijuana users ! Attacking the rights of legitimate patients to "safe & legal access" is the only ploy left to the prohibitionists who are otherwise powerless to keep millions of their neighbors from enjoying their drug of choice ! And if Doug ever trys to slap the marijuana out of my hand it's him not me that will be missing a few fingers & probably some teeth (don't threaten me anymore Doug,I have a picture of you) !!!
Kevin George July 27, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Summer, how can you say" If you don't like the law that's too damn bad"? Why not nut up and get the Federal law changed if your cause is just? What Congress grants to D.C. is completely irrelevant to this conversation. The Federal law still stands. Your problem is a question of States Rights. California passed a law and Federal government thumbed its nose at it. I cannot figure out why you are pussy footing around with the medical marijuana question. If you were truly interested in freedom you would be fighting the Feds on the basis that it is basic freedom to do what you wish with your body. I am hoping you are aware that Detroit is a City in Michigan.
Summer Hemphill July 27, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Under federal law everyone is guaranteed "equal protection" under our Constitution,it's ensures that everyone is treated equally no better & no worse than everybody else. One of our most sacred rights is the right to vote & Congress gave Washington D.C. voters the right to vote for medical marijuana.Regardless of federal law to the contrary marijuana is recognized as medicine by the federal government there & the government can't contend that it's medicine there & not in the states where the voters approved it's use ! Further to force the federal government to capitulate & force them to recognize our right to use medical marijuana a group patients have filed a voter's right suit against the Feds in U.S. District Court in Southern California.On March 28th Judge Andrew Guilford heard arguments in James v United States that the patients have been denied their right to vote for medical marijuana despite Congress's decision to grant that right to Washington D.C. voters ! The issue is simple by allowing Washington D.C. voters to approve medical marijuana Congress has given their tacit if unwitting approval of their right to vote on this issue & to deny that right to others is unconstitutional ! A likely decision in favor of the patients on solely Constitutional grounds would permanently enjoin the federal government from arresting & prosecuting those complying with their own state laws regarding medical marijuana ! We're winning in both state & federal courts,why wait on Congress ?
Eric July 31, 2012 at 10:51 PM
awareness of medical uses for marijuana should be raised so politicians can make a clear law protecting sick people that uses medical cannabis. ....Colorado weed delivery
Eric August 07, 2012 at 07:10 AM
there should be a medical program permitting cannabis patients to get their medical cannabis.

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