Feds Descend on LA Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Several Los Angeles marijuana dispensaries were raided by federal agents this week. The LA Times reports this is the first large-scale federal crackdown in the city, and there are expected to be more.

The raids come in the midst of a local fight as well—where the city banned dispensaries over the summer, only for citizens and activists to gain enough support to see their challenge to the ban on the ballot. Now the city is left to either change the ban, repeal it, or let voters determine the outcome.

In the meantime, the federal agents will continue enforcing federal law.

Federal cannabis dispensary raids have been more and more frequent in California, beginning last October in Orange County and moving north and eastward. Wednesday marks the first systematic move into Los Angeles. A spokesperson from the U.S. attorney general’s office said that it won’t be the last.

“We couldn’t do all of L.A. at once,” said Thom Mrozek. “There’s just too many stores.”

Property owners where Change Collective, House of Kush, and ER Collective operate had civil asset forfeiture complaints filed against them for allowing the dispensaries to run under their roofs. The DEA raided three other locations downtown, in Silver Lake, and Boyle Heights.

Sixty-seven other dispensaries in the city have received warning letters, giving them 1 week to comply with federal law—in other words, one week to shut down. Only one dispensary was explicitly told to shutter its doors.

According to the Times:

In the early days of President Obama’s tenure, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said federal prosecutors would not target medical marijuana users and caregivers as long as they followed state laws. But as the risk of prosecution diminished, storefront dispensaries and enormous growing operations proliferated in California, often in brazen defiance of zoning laws and local bans.

Even if the crackdown was due to “brazen defiance of zoning laws and local bans,” wouldn’t there be another avenue for enforcement—namely, by local agencies. When a business violates a zoning ban, I don’t think they are normally raided, with all of their merchandise taken, and their owners arrested.

If the main issue is slight errors on regulations, wouldn’t fines and warnings be the order of the day? It seems the federal raids are much more than a regulatory issue—and more of a fuel for the Drug War issue.

If you find yourself facing marijuana possession charges in any state, call for a consultation with a local defense attorney. 

About David Matson

David writes about criminal justice issues.
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