DOJ Press Release on CA Medical Marijuana Crackdown

Here is the press release issued by the Department of Justice (Eastern District of California) today on the new federal crackdown on medical marijuana businesses: (Received by e-mail, no link yet.)

SACRAMENTO, Calif.October 7, 2011 – The four California-based United States Attorneys today announced coordinated enforcement actions targeting the illegal operations of the commercial marijuana industry in California. The statewide enforcement effort is aimed at curtailing the large, for-profit marijuana industry that has developed since the passage of California's Proposition 215 in 1996. That industry has swelled to include numerous drug-trafficking enterprises that operate commercial grow operations, intricate distribution systems and hundreds of marijuana stores across the state — even though the federal Controlled Substances Act makes illegal the sale and distribution of marijuana.


While the four United States Attorneys have tailored enforcement actions to the specific problems in their own districts, the statewide enforcement efforts fall into three main categories:

· Civil forfeiture lawsuits against properties involved in drug trafficking activity, which includes, in some cases, marijuana sales in violation of local ordinances;

· Letters of warning to the owners and lienholders of properties where illegal marijuana sales are taking place; and

· Criminal cases targeting commercial marijuana activities, including arrests over the past two weeks in cases filed in federal courts in Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and Fresno.

The enforcement actions being announced today are the result of the four United States Attorneys working with federal law enforcement partners and local officials across California to combat commercial marijuana activities that are having the most significant impacts in communities.

"The actions taken today in California by our U.S. Attorneys and their law enforcement partners are consistent with the Department's commitment to enforcing existing federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), in all states," said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. "The department has maintained that we will not focus our investigative and prosecutorial resources on individual patients with serious illnesses like cancer or their immediate caregivers. However, U.S. Attorneys continue to have the authority to prosecute significant violations of the CSA, and related federal laws."

Benjamin B. Wagner, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California stated: "Large commercial operations cloak their moneymaking activities in the guise of helping sick people when in fact they are helping themselves. Our interest is in enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously sick people and those who are caring for them. We are making these announcements together today so that the message is absolutely clear that commercial marijuana operations are illegal under federal law, and that we will enforce federal law."

André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney for the Central District of California, stated:"The federal enforcement actions are aimed at commercial marijuana operations, including marijuana grows, marijuana stores and mobile delivery services - all illegal activities that generate huge profits. The marijuana industry is controlled by profiteers who distribute marijuana to generate massive and illegal profits."

Laura E. Duffy, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of California, commented: "The California marijuana industry is not about providing medicine to the sick. It's a pervasive for-profit industry that violates federal law. In addition to damaging our environment, this industry is creating significant negative consequences, in California and throughout the nation. As the number one marijuana producing state in the country, California is exporting not just marijuana but all the serious repercussions that come with it, including significant public safety issues and perhaps irreparable harm to our youth."

Melinda Haag, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, said: "Marijuana stores operating in proximity to schools, parks, and other areas where children are present send the wrong message to those in our society who are the most impressionable. In addition, the huge profits generated by these stores, and the value of their inventory, present a danger that the stores will become a magnet for crime, which jeopardizes the safety of nearby children. Although our initial efforts in the Northern District focus on only certain marijuana stores, we will almost certainly be taking action against others. None are immune from action by the federal government."

Dozens of letters have been sent over the past few days to the owners and lienholders of properties where commercial marijuana stores and grows are located. In the Southern and Eastern Districts, the owners of buildings where marijuana stores operate have received letters warning that they risk losing their property and money derived from renting the space used for marijuana sales. In the Central District, where more than 1,000 stores are currently operating, prosecutors have sent letters to property owners in selected cities where officials have requested federal assistance, and they plan to continue their enforcement actions in other cities as well. In the Northern District, owners and lienholders of marijuana stores operating near schools and other locations where children congregate have been warned that their operations are subject to enhanced penalties and that real property involved in the operations is subject to seizure and forfeiture to the United States.

In the Central District and Eastern District, prosecutors this week filed a total of seven civil forfeiture complaints against properties where landlords are knowingly allowing marijuana stores to operate. One complaint filed against a south Orange County strip mall, for example, alleges that eight of the 11 second-floor suites in the buildings are occupied by marijuana stores and that one small city has spent nearly $600,000 in legal fees in its attempt to eradicate the illegal operations.

Criminal cases recently unsealed across the state reveal marijuana operations that produce huge profits, send their money and illegal narcotics to other states, and market products to young people. In a case involving a now-closed marijuana store in the San Fernando Valley, two conspirators allegedly used encrypted smartphones to coordinate marijuana sales to places as far away as New York and estimated that they would each receive $194,000 in profits per month. In a San Diego dispensary case unsealed last week, six defendants were charged in a 77-count indictment that alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy that included numerous marijuana sales to under-aged persons.

"The DEA and our partners are committed to attacking large-scale drug trafficking organizations, including those that attempt to use state or local law to shield their illicit activities from federal law enforcement and prosecution," said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. "Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that its distribution and sale is a serious crime. It also provides a significant source of revenue for violent gangs and drug organizations. The DEA will not look the other way while these criminal organizations conduct their illicit schemes under the false pretense of legitimate business."

Victor S.O. Song, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation, stated: "IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to work with our law enforcement partners and lend its financial expertise to this effort. We will continue to use the federal asset forfeiture laws to take the profits from criminal enterprises."

Across California, the federal government will continue to investigate and prosecute those whose actions not only violate federal laws, but also the state laws regarding the use of marijuana. The problems associated with the marijuana business have dramatically increased over the past two years, even in areas where local governments and citizens actively oppose these businesses.

The statewide coordinated enforcement actions were announced this morning at a press conference in Sacramento.
< Innovation, Productivity And Policy Retrogression | Friday Night Open Thread: Yom Kippur >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    "Congress has determined that MJ... (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Dadler on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 05:36:50 PM EST
    ...is a dangerous drug."

    That really made me laugh.

    Congress couldn't determine how to tie their own friggin' shoes.  That's why they wear all those tassel loafers.

    I am not impressed (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Zorba on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 05:44:48 PM EST
    Our tax dollars at work.  They complain about government spending, and they're talking about cutting funding for anything that helps the poor and the elderly?  If they want to save money, they can start by stopping this type of absolute horse manure.

    Oppression is America's only growth industry. (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:23:47 PM EST
    Those poor dumb optimists are road kill.

    It's a question of opportunity cost, not cost. (2.00 / 1) (#5)
    by jpe on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:21:56 PM EST
    The attorneys and agents are getting paid either way.

    Did We Run Out of Violent Criminals (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:55:13 PM EST
    In American ?  

    Crime is so slow it's time to chase non-profits.


    Once Again the Police State Overrules... (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:22:35 PM EST
     ...the voters will.

    Democracy, Shamocracyy, Hypocrisy.

    Fuk-it, Greek Fest this weekend and I plan on being one of the Bad Kids.

    In Class
    We are a minority
    Got no
    Respect for authority
    And won't
    Play well with others
    And steal
    From all your mothers
    They'll try
    To give us pills
    Oh wait
    Give us all the pills
    Go cry
    Mom I gotta go to court
    Dad won't
    Pay his child support

    The voters banned pot. (2.00 / 2) (#8)
    by jpe on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:26:02 PM EST
    There's this thing called "federal law."  It's passed by "Congress."

    You may have heard of them, but based on the caliber of your poetry I'm guessing you were too busy working on your craft.


    It's not his poetry, jpe (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Zorba on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:32:19 PM EST
    He's quoting lyrics from a song by the band Black Lips.  I guess you were too busy working on your critiques of other people's posts to bother finding that out, though.

    Here is a List... (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:42:53 PM EST
    ... of laws that are not enforced.

    It would take a team of speed readers a year just to get through all of them.

    Using your rational, we should enforce each and every one, then fire Holder for his two years of incompetence for not enforcing the MM laws.

    Scare resources should be spent chasing real criminals, not wasted chasing down business people who the majority of people in 13 states view as legitimate.  

    No one is forcing anyone to enforce a law that hasn't been enforced in over a decade.


    That's a terrible, terrible reading of my comment. (2.00 / 1) (#18)
    by jpe on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:56:03 PM EST
    I'm not saying it should be enforced; to the contrary, I think pot laws are stupid and resources would better be deployed elsewhere.  However, shrieking about how the USAs are perpetrating injustice when they do enforce the law is misguided.

    Try to read a little more closely and a little more charitably.


    The Flip Followed by the Flop (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 09:40:56 AM EST
    Read closer, good one, I was too busy with my poetry.

    Slight problem with your comment (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by MO Blue on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:56:53 PM EST
    The California voters did not ban Medical Marijuana. They voted for it and the law has been on the books since 1996.

    California's voters adopted the Compassionate Use Act in 1996 which allows patients with a valid doctor's recommendation, and the patient's designated Primary Caregivers, to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medical use, and has since been expanded to protect a growing system of collective and cooperative distribution. It passed with 5,382,915 (55.6%) votes in favor and 4,301,960 (44.4%) against.

    12 other states have approved measures permitting medical use of marijuana.

    Supreme Court action upholds California's medical pot law

    Justices reject appeals from San Diego and San Bernardino counties seeking to throw out the state marijuana law. Patients likely will be able to seek ID cards showing they're eligible to use the drug.

    I was talking about federal law. (none / 0) (#20)
    by jpe on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 07:12:06 PM EST
    Allow me to quote my comment:
    There's this thing called "federal law."  It's passed by "Congress."

    (emphasis mine)

    The voters never banned (5.00 / 2) (#21)
    by MO Blue on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 07:29:21 PM EST
    anything which is the comment that you made. To quote your title:

    The voters banned pot.

    Mar 31, 2011 national poll

    A recent Harris Poll survey that polled over 3,100 adults online found that 74% of respondents support legalizing medical marijuana in their state, with 48% saying they strongly support it

    would you happen to be related (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by NYShooter on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 05:08:54 AM EST
    To jimakapp?

    When you respond to posters' thoughtful comments with adolescent pejoratives the nexus of whatever thought you were attempting to relay gets substantially diminished.

    I didn't hear Scott shrieking, nor did I feel Mo deserved an Eddie Haskell smarmy retort.

    I would respond to your comments but I forgot what you said.


    not true at all: (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by cpinva on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 02:03:25 PM EST
    The voters banned pot

    they did no such thing. congress, by itself, with no direct input from the voters, criminalized cannabis. indirectly, the voters placed these people in congress, by i can't seem to find any evidence that they ran a campaign based on their willingness to make it illegal to possess/use pot.


    Even worse, the 1970 law turned (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 08:48:41 PM EST
    classification of drugs over to a bureacracy called the DEA.  As is well known, the prime directive of Bureacracy is self-perpetuation.  Declaring drugs dangerous or illegal serves that end.

    Kind of amazing Obama DOJ (none / 0) (#28)
    by oculus on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 02:12:40 PM EST
    decided to go after commercial growers and dispensaries at this time.  Aren't majority of U.S. likely voters o.k. with MJ being available and not criminalized?

    There is definitely an overwhelming (none / 0) (#30)
    by MO Blue on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 05:02:26 PM EST
    majority (approx. 74%) who are o.k. with medical marijuana. About evenly split on legalizing it for personal use.

    Another thing that Obama's DOJ has done is make it illegal for anyone to sell guns to people on medical marijuana. From what I've read this is not going over well in places like Montana where the voters have voted in favor of medical marijuana and they are predominately pro gun. Tester, who I think, is in a tough race to maintain his Senate seat must be gritting his teeth right about now.  


    Talk about no verifiable research. (none / 0) (#31)
    by oculus on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 05:06:01 PM EST
    Is there some connection between marijuana injestion and gun violence?  I thought MJ made people kinda drowsy and carefree.  

    I think it would be a great idea (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by MO Blue on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 05:25:47 PM EST
    to give every person 18 or over a medical marijuana I.D. card.

    Instant gun control.


    Marijuana Crackdown - RESPECT FOR LAW (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by womanwarrior on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:43:28 PM EST
    "Large commercial operations cloak their moneymaking activities in the guise of helping sick people when in fact they are helping themselves."

    Gee, does this possibly apply to Health Insurance Companies?  Big Pharma?  And here I thought it was the amurrican way to make profits off sick people?

    Wonder how many members of Congress we could get to actually watch Ken Burns' Prohibition?  Isn't insanity continuing to do the same thing that did not work before?  

    Well, we know you gotta justify the more big bucks to law enforcement and prison industries to justify the more big bucks they want to spend on more expensive prisons when we are in "deficit crisis."  No money for second chance or drug programs.  We can't afford that.  Who has the best paid lobbyists, after all? Pass irrational laws and then claim you have to enforce them to achieve respect for the law.  Not logical.  


    Another back room deal with pharma? (5.00 / 0) (#24)
    by MO Blue on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 01:11:18 AM EST
    Wonder which pharmaceutical company will be awarded the patten for this new prescription drug. :-(

    As for using marijuana as medicine, Sabet said the proper path should be one where components of marijuana are studied and possibly approved by the Food & Drug Administration for use in pharmaceuticals.

    "You synthesize and deliver it in the way we deliver medicines in this country," he said, "through pharmacies -- not dispensaries with 300-pound bouncers, bars on the windows and neon lights. link

    Will the future see marijuana as a schedule 2 illegal drug unless purchased as a Tier 4 prescription drug?

    Do you doubt it ? (5.00 / 0) (#38)
    by sj on Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 01:05:42 PM EST
    Another back room deal with pharma?
    There is a 1 billion dollar reelection campaign to finance.  And Wall Street hasn't ante'ed (sp?) up as much as expected.

    THC is already (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Zorba on Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 04:33:09 PM EST
    sold legally, as a prescription drug, under the name Marinol, patented by the Belgian company Solvay Pharmaceuticals.  There have been criticisms of Marinol over the years.  From the article:
    It takes over one hour for Marinol to reach full systemic effect,[74] compared to minutes for smoked or vaporized cannabis.[75] Some patients accustomed to inhaling just enough cannabis smoke to manage symptoms have complained of too-intense intoxication from Marinol's predetermined dosages. Many patients have said that Marinol produces a more acute psychedelic effect than cannabis, and it has been speculated that this disparity can be explained by the moderating effect of the many non-THC cannabinoids present in cannabis. For that reason, alternative THC-containing medications based on botanical extracts of the cannabis plant such as nabiximols are being developed. Mark Kleiman, director of the Drug Policy Analysis Program at UCLA's School of Public Affairs said of Marinol, "It wasn't any fun and made the user feel bad, so it could be approved without any fear that it would penetrate the recreational market, and then used as a club with which to beat back the advocates of whole cannabis as a medicine."
     Inhaled marijuana has the advantage of speed, you take in only as much as you need and can then stop, and you're not vomiting it up before it can take effect.  Unfortunately, marijuana is too easy for the average person to procure (or even grow themselves) if they're not too worried about the cops raiding their house, even in states where medical marijuana is legal, and therefore Big Pharma can't make big profits on it- unless the feds continue, and maybe escalate, their war on marijuana.  

    Counter Productive Insanity (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by liberalpatriot on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 03:24:43 PM EST
       Currently there is a surplus of good product available in California due to more growers induced by the profit potential in the bad economy. Prices have been falling.
       The number of dispensaries has increased to distribute the increased product availability and retail prices have also fallen in California.
       Admittedly gangs and experienced criminals have  entered the business and control portions of the business, both as growers and as retailers through dispensaries. Furthermore the narco economy that has been created is morally destructive to society.
        However by closing dispensaries, it will force retail sales onto the streets controlled by gangs and violence will increase as they vie for distribution locations. In addition more growers will wholesale the product out of state  as there is a significant price difference for east coast distribution. As more product moves east, gangs and criminal elements in the east will enjoy a greater profit margin as wholesale prices will eventually drop as the California exports increase. (retail prices in the east do not drop as fast as wholesale prices). The result will be even more gang activity and crime elements entering retail distribution in the east and violence will increase.
    There are low barriers to entry to grow the product so supply will not contract no matter what enforcement action is taken. The problem with the product is the retail distribution. (The demand issues have been resolved by lax prescription requirements)
       This is a commodity product that corporations such as tobacco companies could grow cheaper than the home grower and market it with controlled quality and brand differentiation. The government could monetize the product by giving a monopoly to the tobacco companies thereby destroying the narco economy along with the revenue source of gangs and other criminal elements.
        The government revenue could be used to treat the substance abusers as a medical condition not criminal problem.
        If the U.S. grew its own product and controlled distribution it would also resolve a lot of the drug violence problems in Mexico.
        The current enforcement action appears to be lawyers and police, basically civil servants, who have no business experience and see criminal law as a way to control behavior.
       The product has to be distributed in the same manner as the other drugs, alcohol and nicotine.
       The abusers of the product need to be identified and treated and the same moral suasion that has lessened smoking in California can be used to control the use. Criminal law should only be used incidentally as it is used in the control of alcohol and nicotine.
       Expect to see an increase in street violence by gangs and criminal elements just like what occurred with crack cocaine and alcohol prohibition.

    What. A. Waste. Of. Time. (3.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Dadler on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 05:30:12 PM EST
    And.  Resources.

    But the Puritans need their witches to burn.

    And more bridges, of course.

    Id.  E.  Its.

    I thought the operations were CA non-profs? (none / 0) (#4)
    by jpe on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:21:15 PM EST
    At any rate, I can't get too juiced up about the feds enforcing federal law.  The blame ultimately lies w/ Congress, not the USAs that have to enforce the inane laws that Congress passes.

    God Help Us (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:31:21 PM EST
    If the authorities start enforcing all the inane laws on the books.  Funny how it's taken over a decade to realize MM is illegal.

    So I can fault this administration for being even more ridiculous that the former one in regards to laws millions of voters approved.


    Maybe Obama and Holder (5.00 / 0) (#12)
    by MO Blue on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:33:00 PM EST
    needed to state that they would strongly enforce the federal laws rather than lead people to believe that they would not. As stated in Jeralyn's Obama and Holder Then and Now on Medical Marijuana  

    In New Hampshire in 2007, he said he would not have the Justice Department prosecute medical marijuana.

    Mr. Holder said the new approach was consistent with statements made by President Obama in the campaign and was based on an assessment of how to allocate scarce enforcement resources. He said dispensaries operating in accord with California law would not be a priority for the administration. (my emphasis.)

    The letter does contain hints that they're (none / 0) (#13)
    by jpe on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:35:10 PM EST
    going after enterprises that local authorities have requested assistance for.

    Panel on local NPR radio (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:29:06 PM EST
    discussed location of MJ clinics close to schools, people coming to CA solely for purpose of obtaining med.MJ cert., and crime @ dispensaries--burglary and robbery. Should we close down jewelry stores?  

    Banks ?? (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 06:49:29 PM EST
    It's stoopid because people use cash because they don't want Big brother snooping, which is the reason dispensaries are targeted.

    Like all the drug violence, the naysayers create it with policy, then hold it up as the reason why.

    !@! Circular reference error  !@!

    It's the (none / 0) (#22)
    by lentinel on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 08:47:46 PM EST
    usual display being put on by pinheads seeking election or reelection to show that they're "tough on crime".

    Definitely a display by pinheads (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by MO Blue on Fri Oct 07, 2011 at 09:08:12 PM EST
    that they are "tough on crime" {medical marijuana} to distract from the fact that are definitely not going to be tough on crimes  committed by their savvy friends.

    For perhaps the first time, President Barack Obama was forced to explain why there have been no prosecutions of Wall Street executives for their fraudulent actions during the run-up to the financial crisis. Asked by Jake Tapper to explain this behavior, Obama basically suggested that most of the actions on Wall Street weren't illegal but just immoral, and that his Administration worked to re-regulate the financial sector with the Dodd-Frank reform legislation.

    "Banks are in the business of making money, and they find loopholes," the President said. Apparently forging and fabricating documents to prove ownership of homes that are subsequently stolen from borrowers is now a loophole. link

    Indeed (none / 0) (#37)
    by sj on Mon Oct 10, 2011 at 01:02:50 PM EST
    but that's only part the of the story.  The other part is all the profit to be made by having a "war on drugs".

    Opens the doors for the cartels (none / 0) (#25)
    by kgoudy on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 09:57:12 AM EST
    Why the government would want to create openings for the cartels to import pot is unfathomable.  With grows in- state, and safe stores, why would patients need to turn to street sales?  

    Meanwhile, per Greenwald, Steve (none / 0) (#26)
    by oculus on Sat Oct 08, 2011 at 12:26:14 PM EST
    Jobs sd. ingesting LSD was one of the most important events of life.  

    In the last campaign and election, (none / 0) (#35)
    by NYShooter on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 05:40:37 AM EST
     President Obama enjoyed much political benefit from using the word, "change," and used it to great advantage.
    But, I think the times  are serious enough today that a smart politician should coin and own a different word.

    I think voters would sit up and listen to a  politician who said, "I don't believe in Liberal  policies nor do I believe in Conservative policies, I believe in Smart policies."

    If its all about marketing and sound bites I can see a lot of pluses with  Obama saying something like, I promised you smart policies, and this bill will be smart policy. Or I promised you I would veto dumb bills, and this is a dumb bill.

    Forget the niceties and protocol, the voters respond to simple blunt talk, and hopefully by using this technique the debate would be on the merits of the bill, and not be hijacked with nonsense like "socialism, or class warfare."