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Feds Order California Medical Marijuana Dispensaries To Shut Down


closed medical marijuana dispensaryBy Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town

In a major escalation of the U.S. federal government’s war on medical marijuana dispensaries, federal prosecutors have warned California collectives they have 45 days to shut down or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property — even if they are operating legally under the state’s medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1996.

California’s four U.S. Attorneys sent letters on Wednesday and Thursday to at least 16 dispensaries or their landlords notifying them they are violating federal drug laws, reports Lisa Leff at the Associated Press. Medical marijuana is legal in California, but federal law prohibits pot for any purpose.

The U.S. Attorneys are scheduled to announce their coordinated crackdown on dispensaries at a Friday news conference. Their offices have so far refused to confirm the closure letters.

The Associated Press said it obtained copies of the letters that one federal prosecutor send to 12 dispensaries in San Diego; they say 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,” read the letters signed by U.S. 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.”

“Please take the necessary steps to discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana at the above-referenced location within 45 days,” the letter warns, reports George Warren at News 10.

The letters inform landlords that their properties could be forfeited and their tenants could be thrown into prison for up to 40 years unless the dispensaries close, reports Chris Roberts at SF Weekly.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Sacramento confirmed her office would also be contacting dispensary landlords.

Marijuana Dispensary Jar“We are initiating similar communications to selected property owners in the Eastern District,” public information officer Lauren Horwood said. “We will be in a position to say more in the near future.”

After two years during which the Obama Administration said they wouldn’t move aggressively against medical marijuana providers abiding by state law, the federal government started cracking down earlier this year with threatening letters from U.S. Attorneys to governors and legislators in most of the 16 states which allow medicinal cannabis.

The effort to shutter California dispensaries is part of a multi-pronged assault by the federal government on the shops.

Banks are cutting business ties with dispensaries, possibly under federal pressure and undoubtedly due to federal banking rules as they pertain to “illegal drugs.” On a related front, the Internal Revenue Service is investigating the finances of some California dispensaries including Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, alleging the shop owes millions of dollars in back taxes.

Federal tax rules prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from taking tax deductions normally available to other businesses. The federal government issued Harborside — the largest collective in the country, with more than 90,000 patients — with a $2.4 million tax bill this week, reports Nick Schou at OC Weekly.

“If you can’t declare your business expenses on your taxes, and if you can’t open a bank account, how can you run a business?” asked one San Francisco attorney specializing in medical marijuana.

“If we don’t get a change in the IRS ruling, every legal, regulated distributor of cannabis in the United States is going to have to go out of business, and patients will be forced back into the hands of criminals,” said Steve DeAngelo, executive director at Harborside.

obama cannabis“It’s just the latest evidence that despite early signs from the Obama administration that it wasn’t going to interfere with the right of states to allow the medical use of marijuana, nothing could be farther from the truth,” Schou wrote at the OC Weekly. “And assuming the feds make good on this latest threat, it could mean the end of medical marijuana as we know it.”

“I think the feds are seeing how much land, especially in northern California, is being used for marijuana growing, and realize they can start seizing these properties and turn it into federal land,” Christopher Glew, who represents collectives in Orange County and elsewhere, told OC Weekly. “And the thing with federal forfeiture is that it can take two or three years before it goes to court, but meanwhile you lose all your property.”

Glew said that the medical marijuana industry is “either going to the grave or it will have to be reinvented.”

William Panzer, an Oakland attorney who coauthored Prop 215, the 1996 ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana in California, said the days are numbered for the current model of marijuana dispensaries, report Andrew Becker and Michael Montgomery at California Watch.

“It’s an effective strategy because they’re basically saying to landlords. ‘If you don’t do this, then you lose your property, and we could also come after you criminally,’ ” Panzer said.

“Although reprehensible and cowardly, the strategy does at least offer a useful guideline as to who will be at risk,” said Dale Gieringer of California NORML. “The memorandum sets thresholds that make investigations more likely to be prosecuted.

“Those include distributors caught with at least 200 kilograms of marijuana, including distribution near schools, playgrounds and colleges; cultivators with gardens of at least 1,000 plants that are not on federal land and at least 500 plants on federal or tribal land or where there is significant damage; and dispensaries that sell more than 200 kilograms or 1,000 plants annually,” Gieringer said.

“Prosecutors are also looking for provable ties to international drug-trafficking organizations or instances in which marijuana is distributed outside of California,” Gieringer said. “The memorandum also outlines guidelines for civil forfeitures for those who indirectly participate — like landlords of property owners — in marijuana operations.”

There’s no word on whether the federal government plans to raid and shut down its own medical marijuana farm in Oxford, Mississippi, or arrest its own federal employees for distributing medical marijuana to the four surviving Compassionate Investigational New Drug cannabis patients who have received pot from them for the past 30 years.

Marijuana is, after all, still against federal law.

Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.


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  1. “United States is going to have to go out of business, and patients will be forced back into the hands of criminals,” said Steve DeAngelo, executive director at Harborside.”

    Steve DeAngelo is wearing his clown shoes along with his Heroin addiction.
    What a utterly stupid comment he made! He must be mostly brain dead from all that Heroin he buys from the profits of Harborside Collective.

  2. So very many of these unreasonable measures by the federal bacon are about simple personal greed and job security. Those in “power” cannot resist the easy opportunity to APPEAR to be fighting the “good” fight. They believe it is a battle with no down side for them because, what can proponents of safe access do?
    Vote.. that has proven irrelevant.
    Defend ourselves and our property.. Impossible! The bacon wields VAST and devastating power, LETHAL power that they seem almost anxious to unleash against Americans pursuing liberty and happiness.
    Should we wait for “Occupy” to eventually trickle down and help us in our specific injustice? I think not!
    The problem with “Occupy” or even some suggested similar actions specific to safe access is the scale required to make a difference. You need literally thousands of same minded individuals TAKING ACTION to even be noticed by any of the bacon.
    “Civil disobedience” needs to be more than a bunch of decent folks standing around in the “town square” to be effective so..
    Here is the twist on “Occupy” I suggest for OUR cause.
    What would be the result of 100 automobiles “stalling” in close proximity on major commuter bottlenecks on interstate freeways at morning rush hour in almost any large city in the US? -I don’t think it is illegal to have car trouble-
    The resulting traffic jams would last for hours, SURELY garner unprecedented media attention..
    “Today’s top news story…”
    and cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in “lost productivity”.
    Maybe the bacon would think twice before violating our right of access to meds if this happened every time they did.
    I am not going to stand around in a “peace rally” style protest because it won’t help in my lifetime but I WOULD happily not be able to get my vehicle restarted if I accidentally stalled in traffic near a hundred or more of my “friends” who did the same.

  3. This two part plan is the only action the citizens of the US need to take to end federal marijuana prohibition:
    1) EVERYONE that sees these links sign up at both sites and weigh in on the debate
    2) Propagate those two links and ensure that everyone that sees them go to both those sites.

    Too many people are blaming the President for enforcing the federal marijuana prohibition. Contact Congress (the LEGISLATIVE branch [that’s the important one when it comes to law]) via the first link. Contact Obama (the EXECUTIVE branch [until Obama vetos a passed H.R. 2306 it’s on Congress – but tell Obama anyway]) via the second link. It really is THAT easy. Participate in democracy!

  4. So if they want the drug dealers back in buisseness. Why even have a goverment its time for tunisia we must protect our children did they not learn there lessons during prohibition it will get real bad hell the price of pot already went up 5 dollars a gram in response to this better start locking down everything they r going to make pot mor expensive then gold there so stupid wow all to create aneed for law enforcement you now local military ……….ooooooowh it is going to hurt but I can tell my kids I was beat and opressed to stand up for gods people to use his resources and not obama care and big pharmacy….so sad 15 years of no fears now I will be a second class citizen smoking the devils lettuce ow how scary I must be booo oh yeah iam a natural born tweeker I have a.d.d. and a.d.h.d and I have a card to help me focus and sleep and just to be plain happy I am a proud none pill user

  5. Mr. “Hope & Change” disappoints again. The Dems got what they deserve: a rudder-less boy in the White House, but, hey, isn’t he proof that white-bashing pays off! Now, the idiot, smelling defeat, alienates the very people (pot smokers) likely to vote for him, and curries favor with the group (anti-pots) that will never vote for him in any case!! Affirmative action demonstrates its consequences once again. Thank goodness this quota beneficiary is President and not a surgeon!

  6. I would rather have it regulated by the government and be available to the public then to have people buy the fake stuff in stores across the country. Who knows what you are really getting and the bath salts are no better.the government has been robbing its hard working tax paying citizens in every way they can come up with.if you ask its getting old working my butt off to pay my taxes.

  7. THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! The federal government is destroying the lives of American citizens. If they seize the property of the dispensery owners, lives will be ruined. They have spent all of there time and money into building themselves a legit business. The United States is a nation in debt. The medicinal marijuana industry could be used as a useful tool to help us out of the whole that we have dug for ourselves. The federal government shouldn’t be destroying this industry, they should be helping it mature into a profitable business that could one day put the economy back on track. Not only can it help the economy, it can help with the destruction of trees. Before marijuana was illegal, it was used as paper. The timber industry almost ran out of business so they started propaganda saying criminals smoke marijuana. It then had a stereo type of being a “bad drug.”

  8. Reverend Unruh on


    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Join my church.

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