Phoenix New Times: “News broke last week that the Justice Department is advising federal prosecutors not to stop tribes from growing or selling marijuana on their lands, even in states where marijuana remains illegal. According to the Justice Department memo, some tribes had requested guidance on how federal drug laws would be enforced in regards to marijuana, although it didn’t say exactly which tribes were curious. We checked with a couple of Phoenix-area Native American communities, and they’re staying mum on the issue.”
Los Angeles Times: “Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice. The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.”
The Daily Beast: “In a historic move Thursday night, Congress voted to pass a bill that will end federal raids on medical marijuana. The first major marijuana reform to pass, it’s a sign of a new day rising in the war on drugs. In an unprecedented move Thursday night, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that prevents the Drug Enforcement Administration from raiding state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries.”
Associated Press: “Libertarian-minded and moderate Republicans joined forces early Friday morning with Democrats in an early morning House vote to block the federal government from interfering with states that permit the use of medical marijuana. The unusual coalition produced a surprising 219-189 vote in the GOP-controlled House that reflects more permissive public attitudes toward medical pot use.”
McClatchy DC: “Delivering a major blow to state-licensed pot growers in Washington state and Colorado, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said today it will not allow any federally-controlled water to be used on marijuana crops. ‘As a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people,’ said Dan DuBray, the agency’s chief of public affairs. The decision could hit particularly hard in Washington state, with the federal agency controlling the water supply for two-thirds of Washington state’s irrigated land.”
Yahoo News: “The green-cross storefronts of medical marijuana dispensaries are common in much of Washington, and the state is plowing ahead with licensing people to grow and sell recreational pot to adults. But a federal trial scheduled to begin in the coming weeks for five people in Spokane suggests not all is OK with weed in the state. Larry Harvey, a 70-year-old medical marijuana patient with no criminal history, three of his relatives and a family friend each face mandatory minimum sentences of at least 10 years in prison after they were caught growing about 70 pot plants on their rural, mountainous property.”
Roll Call: “As states and cities move to liberalize marijuana laws, the administration looks at changes to federal policy and the No. 2 House Democrat reverses course on decriminalization, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. found himself in a charged congressional hearing on Tuesday. Pressed by members from both sides of the aisle to defend Justice Department practices in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, Holder insisted the Obama administration has not ‘retreated.’ Holder also said the DOJ won’t scale back marijuana punishments by rescheduling the drug, as House Democrats have been pushing President Barack Obama to do, saying he was ‘satisfied’ with what the department is doing. ‘The notion that somehow we have retreated from our enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act with regard to marijuana is not accurate,’ Holder told the House Judiciary Committee. He reiterated a DOJ memo laying out eight areas of priority for pot prosecutions, including marketing to minors, driving under the influence and criminal cartels.”
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of the Deputy Attorney General
The Deputy Attorney General Washington, D.C. 20530
February 14, 2014
MEMORANDUM FOR ALL UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS
FROM: James M. Cole, Deputy Attorney General
SUBJECT : Guidance Regarding Marijuana Related Federal Crimes
On August 29, 2013, the Department issued guidance (August 29 guidance) to federal prosecutors concerning marijuana enforcement under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The August 29 guidance reiterated the Department’s commitment to enforcing the CSA consistent with Congress’ determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug that serves as a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. In furtherance of that commitment, the August 29 guidance instructed Department attorneys and law enforcement to focus on the following eight priorities in enforcing the CSA against marijuana-related conduct:
- Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors;
- Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels;
- Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
- Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
- Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana;
- Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
- Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands; and
- Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
Under the August 29 guidance, whether marijuana-related conduct implicates one or more of these enforcement priorities should be the primary question in considering prosecution under the CSA. Although the August 29 guidance was issued in response to recent marijuana legalization initiatives in certain states, it applies to all Department marijuana enforcement nationwide. The guidance, however, did not specifically address what, if any, impact it would have on certain financial crimes for which marijuana-related conduct is a predicate.
The provisions of the money laundering statutes, the unlicensed money remitter statute, and the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) remain in effect with respect to marijuana-related conduct. Financial transactions involving proceeds generated by marijuana-related conduct can form the basis for prosecution under the money laundering statutes (18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957), the unlicensed money transmitter statute (18 U.S.C. § 1960), and the BSA. Sections 1956 and 1957 of Title 18 make it a criminal offense to engage in certain financial and monetary transactions with the proceeds of a “specified unlawful activity,” including proceeds from marijuana-related violations of the CSA. Transactions by or through a money transmitting business involving funds “derived from” marijuana-related conduct can also serve as a predicate for prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 1960. Additionally, financial institutions that conduct transactions with money generated by marijuana-related conduct could face criminal liability under the BSA for, among other things, failing to identify or report financial transactions that involved the proceeds of marijuana-related violations of the CSA. See, e.g., 31 U.S.C. § 5318(g). Notably for these purposes, prosecution under these offenses based on transactions involving marijuana proceeds does not require an underlying marijuana-related conviction under federal or state law.
As noted in the August 29 guidance, the Department is committed to using its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant marijuana-related cases in an effective and consistent way. Investigations and prosecutions of the offenses enumerated above based upon marijuana-related activity should be subject to the same consideration and prioritization. Therefore, in determining whether to charge individuals or institutions with any of these offenses based on marijuana-related violations of the CSA, prosecutors should apply the eight enforcement priorities described in the August 29 guidance and reiterated above. Footnote 1. For example, if a financial institution or individual provides banking services to a marijuana-related business knowing that the business is diverting marijuana from a state where marijuana sales are regulated to ones where such sales are illegal under state law, or is being used by a criminal organization to conduct financial transactions for its criminal goals, such as the concealment of funds derived from other illegal activity or the use of marijuana proceeds to support other illegal activity, prosecution for violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956, 1957, 1960 or the BSA might be appropriate. Similarly, if the financial institution or individual is willfully blind to such activity by, for example, failing to conduct appropriate due diligence of the customers’ activities, such prosecution might be appropriate. Conversely, if a financial institution or individual offers services to a marijuana-related business whose activities do not implicate any of the eight priority factors, prosecution for these offenses may not be appropriate.
The August 29 guidance rested on the expectation that states that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement clear, strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems in order to minimize the threat posed to federal enforcement priorities. Consequently, financial institutions and individuals choosing to service marijuana-related businesses that are not compliant with such state regulatory and enforcement systems, or that operate in states lacking a clear and robust regulatory scheme, are more likely to risk entanglement with conduct that implicates the eight federal enforcement priorities. Footnote 2. In addition, because financial institutions are in a position to facilitate transactions by marijuana-related businesses that could implicate one or more of the priority factors, financial institutions must continue to apply appropriate risk-based anti-money laundering policies, procedures, and controls sufficient to address the risks posed by these customers, including by conducting customer due diligence designed to identify conduct that relates to any of the eight priority factors. Moreover, as the Department’s and FinCEN’s guidance are designed to complement each other, it is essential that financial institutions adhere to FinCEN’s guidance. Footnote 3. Prosecutors should continue to review marijuana-related prosecutions on a case-by-case basis and weigh all available information and evidence in determining whether particular conduct falls within the identified priorities.
As with the Department’s previous statements on this subject, this memorandum is intended solely as a guide to the exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion. This memorandum does not alter in any way the Department’s authority to enforce federal law, including federal laws relating to marijuana, regardless of state law. Neither the guidance herein nor any state or local law provides a legal defense to a violation of federal law, including any civil or criminal violation of the CSA, the money laundering and unlicensed money transmitter statutes, or the BSA, including the obligation of financial institutions to conduct customer due diligence. Even in jurisdictions with strong and effective regulatory systems, evidence that particular conduct of a person or entity threatens federal priorities will subject that person or entity to federal enforcement action, based on the circumstances. This memorandum is not intended, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any matter civil or criminal. It applies prospectively to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in future cases and does not provide defendants or subjects of enforcement action with a basis for reconsideration of any pending civil action or criminal prosecution. Finally, nothing herein precludes investigation or prosecution, even in the absence of any one of the factors listed above, in particular circumstances where investigation and prosecution otherwise serves an important federal interest.
1. The Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is issuing concurrent guidance to clarify BSA expectations for financial institutions seeking to provide services to marijuana-related businesses. The FinCEN guidance addresses the filing of Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) with respect to marijuana-related businesses, and in particular the importance of considering the eight federal enforcement priorities mentioned above, as well as state law. As discussed in FinCEN’s guidance, a financial institution providing financial services to a marijuana-related business that it reasonably believes, based on its customer due diligence, does not implicate one of the federal enforcement priorities or violate state law, would file a “Marijuana Limited” SAR, which would include streamlined information. Conversely, a financial institution filing a SAR on a marijuana-related business it reasonably believes, based on its customer due diligence, implicates one of the federal priorities or violates state law, would be label the SAR “Marijuana Priority,” and the content of the SAR would include comprehensive details in accordance with existing regulations and guidance.
2. For example, financial institutions should recognize that a marijuana-related business operating in a state that has not legalized marijuana would likely result in the proceeds going to a criminal organization.
3. Under FinCEN’s guidance, for instance, a marijuana-related business that is not appropriately licensed or is operating in violation of state law presents red flags that would justify the filing of a Marijuana Priority SAR.
FoxNews: “The Obama administration took the unprecedented step Friday of clearing the way for banks to do limited business with marijuana sellers, releasing guidelines for how financial institutions can work with pot shops in states where it’s legal. The move immediately was greeted with relief from the budding marijuana industry. Before the guidance, banks largely had avoided the new pot shops in Colorado for fear of federal prosecution — leaving marijuana sellers running cash-only operations. . . . It’s unclear, though, to what extent banks will engage those businesses. One industry group, the Consumer Bankers Association, voiced legal concerns despite the new guidelines and urged Congress to get involved.”
USA Today: “An ongoing federal investigation is raising questions about the Colorado marijuana industry’s ties to illegal drug operations. Widespread raids on Nov. 21 targeted more than a dozen dispensaries, warehouses, homes and grow operations. Agents are gathering evidence to prove Colombian drug cartels are coming to the state and are using the front of legal marijuana to make money illegally.”
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.”