Associated Press: Feds Order All California Medical Pot Dispensaries to Close Within 45 Days

by on October 6, 2011 · 25 comments

in California, Health, Popular

Editor: Here is the brand new AP story:

By Lisa Leff / Associated Press

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, at least 16 pot shops or their landlords received letters this week stating they are violating federal drug laws, even though medical marijuana is legal in California. The state’s four U.S. attorneys are scheduled to announce a broader 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 at least 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.”

Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said the warnings are part of what appears to be an attempt by the Obama administration to curb medical marijuana on multiple fronts and through multiple agencies. A series of dispensary raids in Montana, for example, involved agents from not only the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, but the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency.

Going after property owners is not a new tactic, though, Hermes said. Five years ago, the Department of Justice under President George Bush made similar threats to about 300 Los Angeles-area landlords who were renting space to medical marijuana outlets, some of whom were eventually evicted or closed their doors voluntarily, he said.

“It did have an impact. However, the federal government never acted on its threats, never prosecuted anybody, never even went to court to begin prosecutions,” Hermes said. “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.”

Meanwhile, in San Diego … 9 dispensaries ordered to close because they are too close to schools

The San Diego U-T reports:

Letters to affected property owners have already been sent out in San Diego by U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. …

The letters notify landowners that their property could be seized and forfeited to the federal government or they could be criminally prosecuted. It gives them 45 days to stop the distribution or sale of medical marijuana at their properties.

Medical marijuana is allowed under California law but is not recognized by federal law. The letter notes that federal law does not recognize a medical marijuana defense for criminal charges or in asset forfeiture proceedings.

About a dozen property owners in San Diego were mailed letters from Duffy’s office Thursday. San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said similar letters are expected to be sent to the other 168 medical marijuana establishments in the city.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager on Wednesday signed orders to close nine of 12 dispensaries that Goldsmith says are violating state law by being within 600 feet of schools.

All 12 collectives have agreed to shut their doors within 48 hours. Goldsmith said he plans to bring most, if not all, of the remaining dispensaries before the court, arguing they violate local zoning laws.

The dispensaries have been in a legal netherworld since a city ordinance aimed at regulating medical marijuana storefronts collapsed in July. City officials say the stores have violated codes for at least two years, but made no concerted effort to shut them down while the council worked to draw up regulations.


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar intrested party October 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Is there a list of the 9 ?? Is one n the OB area ?


avatar Worried Patient October 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm

OB Wellness on Newport is one.


avatar NOT GOOD! October 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Those FEDS need to have their bureaucratic heads examined! They are messing with the wrong people. Don’t those paper-pushers know enough that the majority of medical marijuana patients are OFFICIALLY DISABLED? That is a FEDERALLY PROTECTED CLASS OF PEOPLE that the Feds are threatening to take their “legal” medicine away! I can see the future and I see “CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS galore!


avatar radicaluterus January 17, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I do not feel protected by my sacred disabled status.


avatar intrested party October 6, 2011 at 7:40 pm

@ Not Good …did you have some official stat for that summary or is that just an estimation ?


avatar mike turco October 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm

America….A Judicial…Judeo…Christian nation


avatar fstu October 6, 2011 at 7:57 pm

what a sad state of affairs no money, no jobs, no healthcare and amking more criminals Is it big Pharma pulling strings?


avatar butch October 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm

@interested party (from the U-T):

Herbameds at 4724-4760 Federal Blvd.

Trichomes Inc at 4009 Park Blvd.

Healing Arts Cooperative at 4009 Park Blvd.

All Green Health Cooperative at 3740 5th Ave.

West Coast Wellness at 6956 El Cajon Blvd.

Absolute Collective, Inc., 2801 4th Ave.

Green Hope Dispensary, 5971 El Cajon Blvd.

MediMart, 6787 El Cajon Blvd.

Medical Miracle Collective, 4009-15 Park Blvd. #12

The four cases that have been continued are:

Redwood Collective at 1516 W. Redwood St.

Ocean Beach Wellness Center at 4851 Newport Ave.

Oasis Herbal Center at 3441 University Ave.

West Coast Wellness at 6956 El Cajon Blvd


avatar intrested party October 7, 2011 at 6:21 am

thank you sir.


avatar radicaluterus January 17, 2012 at 11:50 pm

ty again .


avatar John Friend October 6, 2011 at 10:31 pm

All the more reason we should all show up at Occupy San Diego! The federal government is completely criminal and out of control!


avatar OB Mercy October 7, 2011 at 6:39 am

It is so sad that we keep going backwards on this issue instead of moving forward. What is the govt so damn scared of with pot? Is it because they can’t control it and sell it themselves? If they did, they might be able to reduce budget deficits. This is really such total bullshit.


avatar Goatskull October 7, 2011 at 9:20 am

“Is it because they can’t control it and sell it themselves?”

I think that’s EXACTLY the case.


avatar Jack Hamlin October 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I am so upset with myself! I swore I would NEVER vote for a Republican, ever. I could have sworn it stated Obama was a Democrat when I voted for him. I guess it will teach me to read a bit more carefully in the future when I vote…

Meanwhile, I am glad to see Jan Goldsmith, et al., have ferreted out all the misuse of city funds by public and private contractors and the city employees with whom they do business, completely cleaned up the Police Department and all the criminal activity which is going on there, kept tabs on sex predators (did you know there is one living less than a block from one of our schools in OB?), investigated where all the money went to improve our infrastructure…like potholes and bathrooms, and all the far more important issues which face San Diego.

It is time to end the administratively imposed prohibition on Cannabis. The people from the left, right and center have spoken, “The reason we elected you to office is to Fix the Important Shit” I am really hard pressed to see where the resources on any level of government are best spent to continue a “war” against something the rest of the nation does not care about…

…on second thought, I guess that’s what they do. Just look at Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan. Silly me…..

Peace, Jack


avatar Bill Ray October 7, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Isin’t it funny that when, upon growing up and “experimenting”, one could always get “the best shit” from the sons and daughters of politicians? At least where I grew up (Mississippi) that rang true. This entire debacle is as stupid and picayune as the now defunct Blue Laws.


avatar OB Mercy October 10, 2011 at 11:04 am

Does anyone know if Obama is directly responsible for the order to close the dispensaries?? I know he probably consults with a lot of his admin for these decisions, but I’ve always supported him through so many issues….but if it’s true he is responsible, he just lost my upcoming vote.


avatar fstu October 10, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I don’t know and I certanly don’t support or approve of what the feds are doing BUT please before wasting a vote or not voting for Obama see who the competion might be Remember Gore v Bush and look what happened just because many didn’t totally agree with Gore


avatar OB Mercy October 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Well, kinda being a die hard liberal, I’m certainly not ever voting Republican!


avatar imominous October 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm

I am only going to vote on issues, not people, until we get something besides the ‘business as usual’ candidates.


avatar radicaluterus October 10, 2011 at 6:08 pm

“this is a move to protect the sanctity of the medication approval process.” What horseshit. Have you seen the lawsuits filed against the drug companies for bad drugs? The medication approval process is stacked in favor of the drug companies profit, my health is secondary.
Medical cannabis, taken with a vaporizer or ingested is safer that the paxil I took or the zetia, or the zoloft, or the vicodin, or the, do you see my point?

Money out of politics, it’s our only chance.


avatar Burkey October 14, 2011 at 7:10 pm

““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,”
What a load!!! Seriously? Is our memory that short? I remember clearly Eric Holder saying they would NOT prosecute.

The O. admin doesn’t even care anymore whether its lies are obvious or offensive. To me this is a bad sign.
God forbid someone should inhale some smoke and feel better.


avatar OB Mercy October 15, 2011 at 9:47 am

Burkey…don’t you remember when Obama first took office he told the Feds to lay off the dispensaries and concentrate on more pressing issues than depriving patients on what they voted for?? I’m beyond discouraged since I campaigned for Obama.


avatar OB Mercy January 17, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Well, they did it. All brick and mortar marijuana dispensaries have been shuttered in SD. The saddest part besides now having to deal with delivery services…which is kinda like doing a drug deal because you get into their car…….they arrested not only people running the dispensaries…but they arrested ANY PATIENT that was in the dispensary at the time of the raid!!

Please Frank, or any writer here at the OB Rag, PLEASE do an article on this. I came THIS CLOSE to being arrested!!! You can call Andrew at North County Quality Collective and he will give you the dirty LOW down!! 619-381-7207


avatar radicaluterus January 17, 2012 at 11:55 pm

I wrote a piece titled “I Am A Nation Of One,” about the day these last raids took place, I posted it on my Diane5150 blog, if anyone wants to check it out.


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