Denver Post: “The details on the raids . . . come from an affidavit in the criminal case against Diaz and provide new context for the largest federal operation against medical-marijuana businesses ever in Colorado. Agents executed ‘approximately 15′ search warrants during the raids, the affidavit states. Sources have told The Denver Post that the raids — which a search warrant shows targeted 10 men — were part of an investigation into a single enterprise that detectives believe may have ties to Colombian drug cartels. . . . The raids focused especially on stores, cultivation warehouses and individuals connected to the VIP Cannabis dispensary in Denver.”
Denver Post: “Six weeks before the nation’s first retail marijuana shops open in Colorado, federal authorities on Thursday raided more than a dozen Denver metro area marijuana facilities and two homes. In the largest federal raid on Colorado marijuana businesses since medical marijuana became legal, federal law enforcement agents with an assist from local police officers executed search and seizure warrants at multiple dispensaries and cultivation facilities — at least a dozen in Denver alone.”
See “Fed raids on Colorado marijuana businesses seek ties to Colombian drug cartels” that says “Colorado marijuana businesses raided this week by federal agents are being investigated for a possible connection to Colombian drug cartels, sources told The Denver Post on Friday. Three sources who have knowledge of the investigation spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case. Investigators believe the raided businesses were all “one big operation,” one source said.
See also “Feds, Local Police Raid Colorado Medical Marijuana Dispensaries” that says “Denver-based attorney and marijuana activist Rob Corry was less diplomatic. He told the Post the Justice Department was acting like a bully and targeting “mostly mom-and-pop businesses. That is true to form, the DOJ, behaving like the classic schoolyard bully picking on the little guy,’ he said. ‘The DOJ needs to explain in a logical fashion why they are picking and choosing, going after only some of these entities when every one of them selling marijuana is running afoul of the federal law’.”
OC Weekly: “The U.S. Attorney’s office has formally dropped its case against the Anaheim landlord who stood to lose his $1.5 million retirement property over a $37 pot sale in a dispensary he’d already evicted . . . . the feds also dropped similar cases against three other landlords, Dr. Mark Burcaw . . . as well as Tom Woo and . . . Walter and Diane Botsch . . . .”
NPR: “the administration’s hands-off position in Colorado and Washington will reverberate well beyond those states. And it could actually end up imposing some semblance of order in what drug law expert Mark Kleiman describes as the ‘Wild West’ of medical marijuana. ‘And that would be a potentially very, very good result,’ says Kleiman, who previously worked in the Justice Department’s criminal division and is author of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. ‘Medical marijuana is a free-for-all in many states’,”
KomoNews: “Washington state is changing its plans for where marijuana businesses can be located, after the Justice Department said that enforcing federal drug laws near schools and playgrounds remains a priority ‘and will not be compromised for convenience’. . . . the DOJ told the board that it will continue enforcing the law as it has been, and any pot business within 1,000 feet of a school or playground – as measured by a straight line – is at risk of prosecution.”
Huff Post: “Medical marijuana businesses worried that federal agents will close them down now have a roadmap to avoid prosecution, courtesy of the Justice Department’s decision to allow legal pot in Colorado and Washington state. The agency said last week that even though the drug remains illegal under federal law, it won’t intervene to block state pot laws or prosecute as long as states create strict and effective controls that follow eight conditions.”
Huff Post: “Drug abuse prevention groups asked the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday how it will know whether its acceptance of recreational marijuana laws in Washington and Colorado affects public health. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the groups said the DOJ’s position is a mistake and they want to know how it will measure the states’ success in meeting enforcement priorities required as part of the federal acceptance.”
Huffington Post: “Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Thursday that two states will be allowed to go forward with legalizing recreational marijuana use, a major move that could reshape the federal government’s policy on pot. Colorado and Washington state forced Holder’s hand when they made all marijuana use legal in November referendums — while 20 other states have some sort of medical marijuana laws on the books — but every single joint is still illegal under federal law. Many marijuana reform advocates are hopeful, but they’ve had their hopes dashed before. . . . All along the way, every year since Obama was inaugurated in 2009, the casualties of the war on weed have kept piling up: Growers, patients and you, the American taxpayer.”
Washington Post: “The Obama administration said Thursday that it would not challenge laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington state as long as those states maintain strict rules involving the sale and distribution of the drug. In a memo to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said the Justice Department is ‘committed to using its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent and rational way.’ He stressed that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.”
See also LA Times‘ “Marijuana advocates cheer Obama administration stand” that says “Dale Gieringer, a leading marijuana advocate in California, said he is encouraged by the new U.S. Justice Department memo, but he notes he has been encouraged by past memos only to see federal enforcement increase.”
Phoenix New Times‘ Ray Stern’s article “Arizona’s Medical-Marijuana Law Safe From Federal Action, For Now, in New Obama Policy” that looks at the story from the Arizona and Maricopa County perspective. He quotes Maricopa Attorney Bill Montgomery’s take on the new memo:
The new policy “has no impact on the White Mountain case and any suggestions to the contrary are a pipe dream. . . . we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.”
Huffington Post: “President Barack Obama does not support changes to the legal classification of marijuana, the White House said Wednesday, despite growing evidence of its medical benefits. White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked for the second day in a row if CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta’s recent reversal on medical marijuana use and apology for misleading the public had had any bearing on Obama’s position on the issue.
Here’s what the White House said:
“The administration’s position on this has been clear and consistent for some time now, that while the prosecution of drug trafficking remains an important priority, the president and the administration believe that targeting individual marijuana users, especially those with serious illnesses and their caregivers, is not the best allocation of federal law enforcement resources. I looked it up and the president last talked about this in an interview he had with Barbara Walters in December when she asked a similar question. The president acknowledged that the priority, in terms of the dedication of law enforcement resources, should be targeted toward drug kingpins, traffickers, and others who perpetrate violence in the conduct of the drug trade … that that is the best use of our law enforcement resources. But at the same time, the president does not at this point advocate a change in the law.”
The following is the contents of a press release issued by Americans for Safe Access on May 8, 2013. Note to Owners of real estate who lease land to licensed Arizona medical marijuana dispensaries: Are you paying attention?
One of California’s oldest medical marijuana dispensaries, Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), was served with a lawsuit Friday in an attempt to seize the property in which it operates and to ultimately shut the facility down. In the forfeiture complaint, which is similar to one filed against Oakland’s Harborside Health Center last July, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag makes no mention of local or state law violations. Several elected officials have come out in staunch opposition to the Justice Department’s legal action and at least four Berkeley City Council members will be speaking alongside medical marijuana advocates at a press conference scheduled for Wednesday at Noon.
BPG has been operating in Berkeley since 1999 and, according to a resolution that City Council member Darryl Moore filed Monday, “BPG has served as a national model of the not-for-profit, services-based medical cannabis dispensary.” The resolution goes on to state that BPG has “contributed significantly to our local community, providing good jobs and paying millions of dollars in taxes. They have improved the lives and assisted the end-of-life transitions of thousands of patients; been significant donors to dozens of other organizations in our city; [and] shaped local, state and national policies around medical cannabis.” The resolution is scheduled to be heard by full City Council on May 21st.BPG Chief Operations Officer Sean Luse defended his dispensary as a necessary service for the patients of Berkeley. “Berkeley Patients Group intends to vigorously defend the rights of its patients to be able to obtain medical cannabis from a responsible, city-licensed dispensary,” said Luse. In addition to several city officials who will be speaking later today at the press conference, additional elected officials have also made written statements in support of BPG, including Congressmember Barbara Lee, State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee.
Despite pledges by the Obama Administration to not use Justice Department funds to circumvent state medical marijuana laws, and public proclamations by the President and Attorney General Eric Holder that the Justice Department is only targeting those in violation of state law, this action and other recent legal actions strongly indicate otherwise. After receiving a previous letter from U.S. Attorney Haag in November 2011, BPG reluctantly and at great expense moved its operation in order to stay more than 1,000 feet from a school even though there is no such requirement in local or state law.
“The Obama Administration’s ongoing war against patients is despicable and has to stop,” said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group. Sherer will also be speaking at today’s press conference. “This lawsuit is not about profiteering or violating state law; it’s a mean, vindictive move aimed at shutting down one of the oldest and well-respected dispensaries in the country.”
The Justice Department lawsuit comes as Congress is deliberating on a number of medical marijuana bills. One bill in particular, H.R. 689, the “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act,” authored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and introduced in February, would reclassify marijuana for medical use and allow states to establish production and distribution laws without interference by the federal government. However, even without the passage of H.R. 689, the Obama Administration can still exercise restraint in medical marijuana states, something it has so far refused to do.
- DOJ asset forfeiture complaint against BPG: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/BPG_Forfeiture_Complaint.pdf
- Draft resolution filed by Berkeley Council member Darryl Moore: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Berkeley_Resolution_BPG.pdf
- Statement from Congressmember Barbara Lee: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Lee_Statement_BPG.pdf
- Statement from State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Ammiano_Statement_BPG.pdf
- Statement from Board of Equalization member Betty Yee: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Yee_Statement_BPG.pdf – See more at: http://americansforsafeaccess.org/doj-files-forfeiture-lawsuit-against-one-of-californias-oldest-medical-marijuana-dispensaries#sthash.SvXOWL8r.dpuf
The Daily Chronic: “After a several month long cease-fire, the War on Marijuana has reignited in Washington, with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ordering 11 Seattle-area medical marijuana dispensaries to shut down within 30 days. Despite November’s voter-approved Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana for all adults 21 or over in the state of Washington, and 1998′s voter-approved Measure 692, which legalized medical marijuana in the state, the 11 dispensaries received letters from the DEA advising them that distribution of marijuana was illegal under federal law, and they were to cease operations within 30 days or risk having their properties seized under federal drug trafficking laws.”
The Daily Beast: “While a high school student at Honolulu’s elite Punahou School, Barack Obama was a high-flying member of a pot-smoking, party-hearty crew that called itself ‘the Choom Gang. . . . I inhaled frequently . . . that was the whole point.’ In 2008, he said that he wouldn’t use federal resources to target medical marijuana providers and users in states that had made the stuff legal . . . . Obama has governed not merely as a standard-issue White House drug warrior but as a particularly hard-headed and hard-hearted one. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and polls routinely show 70 percent to 80 percent of Americans support the stuff, but the Obama administration has actually outpaced the Bush administration when it comes to dispensary raids.
Kitsap Sun: “More than 60 percent of those surveyed also said that the federal government should not enforce federal laws against marijuana in states where it’s legal for medicinal or recreational use. Almost 80 percent of respondents said they believe that marijuana has valuable medicinal uses as well. . . . Possession and distribution of medical marijuana is still a federal offense, regardless of whether state laws allow the use or sale of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes. Because marijuana is federally classified as a Schedule I drug, dispensaries throughout the country are vulnerable to raids and government action. . . . Raids are also continuing statewide. Last week, Drug Enforcement Agency agents raided One on One Patient Association, a downtown San Diego dispensary.”
The Sun: “Accompanied by police, fire and code enforcement, City Attorney’s Office officials raided three medical marijuana dispensaries Wednesday, serving warrants and demanding that they shut down allegedly illegal activities. No arrests were made, but officials had a message for The Trio Holistic Center and Berdo Medical Center at 1455 W. Highland Ave. and T.H.C. First Time Patients “FTP” 4G 8th’s at 1208 W. Highland Ave.”
The following is the text of an April 18, 2013, press release by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California:
In the latest of a series of federal enforcement actions against the commercial marijuana industry in California, federal authorities today moved against 63 illegal marijuana stores in the City of Santa Ana.
In federal court this morning, prosecutors filed three asset forfeiture lawsuits against properties in Santa Ana where a total of seven marijuana stores are currently operating. Authorities also executed federal search warrants at two of the stores involved in the asset forfeiture actions. Additionally, prosecutors sent warning letters to people associated with 56 other stores not involved in the forfeiture actions. The federal actions involve all known marijuana stores in the City of Santa Ana.
The federal actions in Santa Ana were done in cooperation with the Santa Ana Police Department and the Santa Ana City Attorney’s Office.
The three civil asset forfeiture complaints filed this morning in United States District Court target three properties in Santa Ana where seven marijuana stores are currently operating. The civil lawsuits state: “Under federal law, the distribution of marijuana (a Schedule I controlled substance under Title 21) is prohibited except under very limited circumstances not applicable here. The government is informed and believes that at all times relevant to this complaint, the operation of the [marijuana stores] on the defendant property was not (and is not) permitted under California law.”
The forfeiture lawsuits allege that the owners of the properties knowingly allowed commercial marijuana stores to operate. The buildings named in the asset forfeiture lawsuits currently house:
GLC (or the Green Love Collective, currently in a suite that formerly housed a store called Old Remedies) and The Dispensary Store, which are operating in a building at 1638 East 17th Street, a property owned by chiropractor Mark Burcaw, and previously have been the subject of administrative citations issued by the city;
SoCal Compassion, Club Meds and Well Greenz, which are located in a building at 1651 East Edinger, another building owned by Burcaw, and are illegal marijuana operations that prompted Santa Ana to file a civil lawsuit last year seeking injunctive relief against Burcaw and the three marijuana stores; and
J Pacific Life (which is located in a suite that formerly housed marijuana stores called Saddleback Meds and The Natural Alternative) and Healing OC, which operate out 1665 East 4th Street and have been the subject of numerous warnings and administrative citations from the City of Santa Ana.
In conjunction with the filing of the asset forfeiture complaints, the United States Attorney’s Office today mailed out letters to the property owners and operators of 56 marijuana stores that are either currently operating or were recently closed in Santa Ana. The warning letters give the operators and landlords 14 days to come into compliance with federal law or risk potential civil or criminal actions.
The Drug Enforcement Administration executed two federal search warrants this morning with the assistance of the Santa Ana Police Department at J Pacific Life and Healing OC.
Today’s enforcement actions in Santa Ana follow similar actions over the past 18 months across the seven-county Central District of California. Starting in October 2011, prosecutors began filing asset forfeiture lawsuits and sending letters to marijuana operations in selected areas in the Central District of California (see, for example, www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/129.html).
With the lawsuits filed this morning, the United States Attorney’s Office has filed a total of 30 asset forfeiture complaints against properties housing illegal marijuana operations in the district. Eighteen of those actions have been resolved with the closure of the marijuana stores and consent decrees. In some cases, consent decrees required property owners to disgorge rent payments made by a marijuana store operator, and in all cases the consent decrees required the property owners to agree, among other things, that they would no longer rent to people associated with illegal marijuana operations or the property would be subject to an immediate forfeiture to the government.
Including today’s efforts in Santa Ana, federal enforcement actions – asset forfeiture lawsuits, warning letters and related activity – have now targeted more than 525 illegal marijuana businesses in the Central District of California. The majority of those businesses previously targeted are now closed, are the subject of eviction proceedings by landlords, or have been the subject of additional federal enforcement actions.
In October 2011, the four United States Attorneys in California announced the coordinated enforcement actions targeting illegal marijuana cultivation and trafficking (see: www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2011/144a.html).
The United States Attorney’s Office is working in Santa Ana with the Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS – Criminal Investigation, the Santa Ana Police Department and the Santa Ana City Attorney’s Office.
U-T San Diego: “One day after the San Diego City Council took up the issue of taxing marijuana, narcotics agents raided one of the last remaining medical pot dispensaries in downtown San Diego Tuesday morning. The regional Narcotics Task Force also ran a parallel operation to seize pot plants at homes and businesses in North County. About 1,000 plants were seized, according to spokeswoman Amy Roderick of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Agents headed out about 10 a.m. and served at least 10 search warrants downtown and in Del Mar, Escondido and Oceanside . . . . the DEA’s goal is to shut down what he called ‘marijuana clubs’ operating in violation of federal law.”
WeHoNews: “Four dispensaries were raided, the La Brea Compassionate Caregivers in Los Angeles and Marina Caregivers in Marina del Rey and Zen Healing at 8464 Santa Monica Blvd. and Alternative Herbal Health Services, at 7828 Santa Monica Blvd.”
A press release issued by the Beverly Hills Police Department said:
“[the raid was the] culmination of four-year investigation into an organized criminal organization involving large scale marijuana distribution, not only throughout the Los Angeles area, but throughout the United States. This criminal enterprise hired known gang members as enforcers. This organization was involved in the operation of multiple retail marijuana dispensaries generating massive profits, repeatedly showing their willingness to use violence and intimidation to expand their operations and dissuade competition.”
For more on this story read “WeHo pot raid, owner’s bust stemmed from feud.”
UPI.com: “U.S. President Barack Obama’s point man for drug policy said legalizing marijuana won’t solve the nation’s drug problem, but addiction treatment will increase. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington the legal possession of small amounts of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state presents complex questions.”
Oakland North: “He might direct the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the country, but Steve DeAngelo isn’t scared of the government’s attempts to shut it down. ‘The federal government has thrown everything they had at us and we met them and we pushed back,’ DeAngelo said, referring to Harborside Health Center, where he serves as founder and executive director. ‘It’s a drug war machine that’s bound for extinction’.”
OC Weekly: “Despite allowing the Kush Expo to operate annually since 2010, the city banned medical-marijuana dispensaries in 2007 and has extended the prohibition every year since. Last year, the city also called in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help crack down on pot clubs. In August, the DEA sent threatening letters to dozens of landlords and filed three asset-forfeiture lawsuits, including one against the owner of a $1.5 million building on Ball Road.”
NBC 7 San Diego: “FBI agents in San Diego are shifting focus from closing down medical marijuana dispensaries to cracking down on marijuana delivery services. NBC 7′s Tony Shin has this exclusive report.”
Los Angeles Times: “Judge throws out lawsuit by Oakland that challenged as illegal the federal attempts to shutter the medical marijuana dispensary, which is the nation’s largest. . . . In filing the suit last October, Oakland became the first city to take on federal enforcement actions that have led to the closure of hundreds of dispensaries in recent years. Attorney Cedric Chao, representing Oakland, had argued that the city has broad interests in ensuring Harborside Health Center remains open, as its closure would compel many of the dispensary’s 108,000 patients to turn to the illegal market, triggering a public health and safety crisis.”
OC Weekly: “Last year, the city [Anaheim, CA] also called in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help crack down on pot clubs. In August, the DEA sent threatening letters to dozens of landlords and filed three asset-forfeiture lawsuits, including one against the owner of a $1.5 million building on Ball Road. . . . the single sale [$37 for 4.2 net grams of pot] —and a sale it was, since most pot goes for $50 or $60 per eighth of an ounce—was enough evidence for the DEA to argue that the otherwise-harmless computer engineer and dentist should lose their retirement-investment property. On Aug. 20, 2012, the agency filed its lawsuit.”
Denver Westword: “Representatives Jared Polis and Earl Blumenauer unveiled the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, a measure that would effectively decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. The bill is being introduced in response to what Polis called the ‘enormous evolution of American opinion’. . . . The bill would not affect the current legal status of marijuana in any jurisdiction. Rather, it would allow states that have voted to legalize medical or recreational marijuana to implement regulations without fear of prosecution from any part of the federal government, including the Drug Enforcement Agency. . . . both Polis and Blumenauer stressed that there is bipartisan backing for the bill”
The Daily Chronic: “Federal agents and local authorities raided a chain of medical marijuana dispensaries and a private residence Wednesday. The Drug Enforcement Administration served search warrants simultaneously at all three locations of Kush Concepts in San Bernardino,”
The Huffington Post has an in depth review of the federal government’s war on medical marijuana under former Choom Gang member Barack Obama. Excerpts from the story are below.
In August 2011, Justice officials told their local government leaders in the town of Chico, Calif., that they could personally be jailed if they went forward with legislation to regulate medical cannabis. Under criminal conspiracy laws, “all parties involved would be considered, including city officials,” city manager David Burkland wrote in a report on their meeting with U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner. . . .
“Staff and Council’s involvement in implementing the marijuana ordinance could be interpreted as facilitating illegal activity associated with marijuana,” Burkland wrote. “U.S Attorney Wagner also stated that although the DOJ may lack the resources to prosecute every case, it intends to prosecute more significant cases to deter the activity of marijuana cultivation and unlawful distribution. In those cases, staff or elected officials will not be immune from prosecution under conspiracy or money laundering laws.”
The prosecutor’s pursuit of fairness also took her to Mendocino County, where local officials had established an effective “zip tie program” to regulate its medical marijuana trade. Growers, after paying a licensing fee and submitting to police inspection, were given zip ties by the sheriff. Police officers who found bags of pot cinched by those ties then had reason to believe the product had been grown legally.
Just before the county board of supervisors planned to vote on making the program official and permanent, Haag traveled to the county and, in a meeting with county counsel Jeanine Nadel, threatened the supervisors with legal action if they moved forward, according to a report by California Watch.
The board decided to squash the program, but Haag’s pursuit continued. She empaneled a grand jury and subpoenaed information from the county about its program, looking for the names of people who had registered as growers, as well as all financial information related to it.
Holder highlighted the contrast in 2010 as California voters prepared to vote on a ballot measure, Proposition 19, legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Just weeks before the election, Holder wrote a letter stating that the feds would “vigorously enforce” federal law “against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law.”
Jenny Durkan, the U.S. attorney for the District of Washington, warned residents the day before her state’s law went into effect in early December that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
“Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6 in Washington State, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law,” she warned.
Toke of the Town: “This month will see a number of patients sentenced, sent to prison despite compliance with state medical marijuana laws. Fallout from the Obama Administration’s aggressive federal enforcement in medical marijuana states has reached a fever pitch this month with three people being sentenced, two others due to surrender to federal authorities to serve out sentences of up to five years in prison, and one federal trial in Montana currently scheduled for January 14. . . . ‘The Obama Administration is lying to the American people when it says it’s not targeting individual patients and these cases are clear evidence of that‘,”
The Daily Chronic: “The operator of three state-compliant California medical marijuana dispensaries was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Monday [January 7, 2013] for running what federal prosecutors claimed was an illegal drug business that only pretended to be legitimate under the state’s medical marijuana law. Aaron Sandusky, 43, of Rancho Cucamonga, was sentenced for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Sandusky is the former president of G3 Holistics Inc.”