DOJ Launches 'Coordinated Crackdown' on Medical Marijuana

A.P. reports that the Justice Department is intensifying its crackdown on medical marijuana in California, sending letters to "at least 16 pot shops or their landlords" threatening criminal prosecution and forfeiture if they do not shut down within 45 days. A.P. says California's four U.S. attorneys "are scheduled to announce their coordinated crackdown at a Friday news conference."

To recap: President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have repeatedly promised to lay off medical marijuana suppliers who comply with state law. Although California's law is fuzzy on the question of who is allowed to supply medical marijuana and in what circumstances, the state's governor and courts seem to think it allows dispensaries to operate as patient collectives or cooperatives. The Justice Department, which Eric Holder theoretically runs, nevertheless makes no distinction between dispensaries that comply with state law and those that don't, not only in California but also in states that explicitly authorize and license medical marijuana suppliers. Its current position is that the forbearance promised by Obama and Holder applies only to patients, which is patently inconsistent with their past assurances and makes Obama's policy indistinguishable from his predecessor's, except that he is pursuing it more aggressively. I review this whole sorry story in the October issue of Reason.

Addendum: California NORML's Dale Gieringer, who sent out a press release about the U.S. attorney letters yesterday, has more details:

Prominent among the targets is the state's longest-operating dispensary, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax, which  enjoys official support from the city and has been operating without complaint since July 3rd, 1996. In a threatening letter to MAMM's landlord, the US Attorney for Northern California warned that MAMM was operating within a "prohibited distance of a park." It goes on to warn  the landlord that he could be liable for imprisonment of up to 40 years, forfeiture of the property, and forfeiture of all rental proceeds from the last 15 years for violating federal law if MAMM isn't evicted.  

Other dispensary landlords in the state have received threatening federal letters for operating too close to schools, even though they are abiding with state regulations. Under state law, dispensaries are forbidden to operate within 600 feet of schools, the same distance as liquor stores. However, a federal law, Title 21 USC 860, imposes additional penalties for sales or distribution of controlled substances within 1,000 feet of schools, colleges, playgrounds, and a host of other areas; the law was originally intended to prevent drug dealing at schools, but is being used by US Attorneys to harass otherwise inoffensive collectives. The Marin Alliance is sited within 1,000 feet of Bolinas Park, where there is a little league playground; the dispensary closes during little league games.

[Thanks to Andrew Tabar for the tip.]

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  • Spencer||

    Not a smoker- but c'mon, really?! Idiocy abounds.

  • Dead Steve Jobs||

    Medical weed could have saved me.

  • !||

    Not too soon.

  • Suki||

    +1

  • rts||

    Hope and change, and all that.

  • ||

    Please stop!!! I can't take anymore hope and change!

  • B.O.||

    Bask in this non-believer!

    http://obamaachievements.org/list#

  • ||

    Thanks for this. After reading all the things that Obammy has done for me, I see that I am merely delusion to still feel like I am getting fucked in the ass.

  • ||

    No, read the fine print carefully: the heavy pounding sensation you're feeling in your rectum is real; however, it is simply residual fucking from the last administration.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Came to say this

  • ||

    We ought to start a petition to respectfully request that Barack Obama kill himself immediately.

  • juris imprudent||

    Does Obama really want a second term? Why would he try to put California into play?

  • Apatheist||

    California in play? BAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • pmains||

    Even if Californians weren't utter morons, are any Republicans not named Ron Paul willing to take a stand against this? Nope. The important thing is to play "tough guy."

  • BakedPenguin||

    The sad thing is, it's utterly pointless. A large majority of Americans believe medical marijuana should be legal.

    I saw an interview with Joe Arpaio, and he even said something like 'if a guy has cancer, he ought to be able to smoke marijuana.' Outside of the DEA and Humboldt county growers, I have no idea who the constituency is that supports suppressing Medical Marijuana.

  • Apatheist||

    The Independant Democratic Republic of Northern Mexico.

  • Apatheist||

    *independent

  • cynical||

    Which presumably has more sway with the DoJ and State Department than the American people anyway.

  • ||

    I've wondered the same thing many 'a times, BP.

    Was it you and I that decided that this whole issue revolved around power-lust and the extreme hesitation (inability)of Obama and Co. to cede one iota of control back to the public.

    There really is no other explanation for this type of shit. It isn't morally or economically right and isn't even popular.

    -----------------
    I'd love to hear from somebody who thinks Obama is worth voting for over anybody at this point. Hell, he's making GW look better and better by the day.

  • BakedPenguin||

    If there is no quid pro quo, then power lust is about the only answer. Maybe someone at the DEA has some secret files about Barry's coke use or something. It's bewildering.

    If I see Obamanauts now, I do make sure to point out that their hero is denying medicine to cancer & AIDS patients. It's a small payback to watch them have to swallow that, knowing that they're on the wrong side.

  • ||

    I guess it's whatever direction your own personal William of Ockham points you in. Honestly, I'd prefer venality over sadism in our leaders; at least corruption is fixable. But, my spidey sense tells me these fuckers get off on power.

  • ||

    Pharmaceutical companies? Prison guard unions?

    Honestly, I've gotten to the point with Obama where anything he does, I ask myself "who is he buying off, doing a favor for, or getting something for?"

    Because I'm pretty sure that's what motivates everything this administration does.

  • ||

    Then you're a lot more generous with these scumbags than I am, Episiarch.

  • BakedPenguin||

    At this point, tying together what you and Apatheist were saying, I almost have to wonder if the Zetas were supporting him. That would help explain some of the idiocy of Fast & Furious and this.

  • ||

    That would be corruption of an almost sublime level.

    I hope it's true and they get caught.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Given his Chicago pedigree, and the colossally fucked up things his administration has done, I wouldn't put it past him.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the investigations around Fast and Furious.

  • cynical||

    I thought that was rumored to favor the Sinaloa Cartel?

  • Spoonman.||

    F&F sent them to the Sinaloa cartel, not the Zetas.

    It would be hilarious if the Sinaloa cartel ran the US Federal government, though.

  • Amakudari||

    I remain torn. He's either the most incompetent president in anyone's memory, or the worst, scummiest Democratic president since the shot clock. A part of me tries to be nice and just assume he has no fucking clue how to manage people and put the few things he actually does care about into practice, and he's only just that big a fuck-up.

    I guess the biggest thing I've learned is that executive experience is not evidence of fitness for office, but it is a prerequisite.

  • ||

    I guess the biggest thing I've learned is that executive experience is not evidence of fitness for office, but it is a prerequisite.

    I guess that leaves Ron Paul out of consideration, and George Bush in...

    This isn't a matter of inexperience. It's quite likely Obama simply. doesn't. care. about policy. He just likes giving speeches. Like his mom felt about him, he likes the idea of being prez more than the office itself.

  • Amakudari||

    Fine, political experience.

    And Bush II absolutely had sufficient experience. His executive branch was awful not because he couldn't control its worst impulses but because America voted for and received a war-addicted state with no time for civil liberties. It's not that experience makes W a good president, but the lack of it sure helps BHO be an awful one.

    I'm not denying that he also doesn't care, just that even on things he cares about, he can hardly get shit done. The lone exception people will trot out is health care, but from the start it seemed like it would take a miracle for that to fail.

  • jasno||

    Manchurian candidate maybe? I remain suspicious that he was some kind of plant to keep Hillary out of office.

    This whole pot crackdown has me wondering: federal prosecutors are generally conservatives - moral zelots. They've been holding off for a few years because that's what they were told to do. Now they've realized their boss in an inept wimp with no chance for reelection, so they're cracking down to win brownie points with the coming republican administration. Obama doesn't have the political capital to spend on reigning them in anymore.

  • Apatheist||

    Or maybe Obama is just a liar?

  • Amakudari||

    And it's really the worst of all worlds. Instead of having a competent executive in a bad social conservative president -- who's elected and directly accountable to voters -- you have the federal beast run amok because there's no one to hold them accountable. What should be far more terrifying to most people than, say, Dick Cheney dictating executive branch policy is having the military, the regulatory agencies, the spy agencies, the federal law enforcement and the like doing it.

    At a coffee shop and the theme for Shaft just came on. Appropriate on several levels.

  • rsi||

    This will look when they run for the Senate.

  • SIV||

    "Holdovers from the Bush Administration!"
    All TEAM RED's FAULT!

  • Paul||

    The sad thing is, it's utterly pointless. A large majority of Americans believe medical marijuana should be legal.

    agreed.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Maybe a large majority of Americans who come to H&R. If Prop 19(?) couldn't pass in CA, I'm not sure where general legalization would pass (although I do think it's just a matter of time before pot becomes legal).

  • ||

    There's a difference between a majority of Americans and a majority of American voters, though. The latter skews old/frightened.

  • SIV||

    The latter skews old/frightened

  • SIV||

    The latter skews old/frightened women

  • Amakudari||

    Men are more likely than women to support legalization, but those old fuckers that make the walk to the local elementary schools because they have nothing else to do overwhelmingly support prohibition.

  • Amakudari||

    What was most amazing during the Prop 19 campaign was how hardcore the establishment came out against it. Everywhere you turned, there was Schwarzenegger or Feinstein railing against it for adding "complexity" to law enforcement.

  • jasno||

    Woa there buddy - Prop 19 wasn't legalization per se. It was a regulatory scheme that was better than what we have now *if you weren't a medical patient already*.

    A lot of folks were scared this would reduce their rights as medical patients. It wouldn't have, but that's what people thought.

    Also, look, this is California and a lot of people make money off pot. Come on - look at the money involved. This is a huge portion of our economy and I continue to be amazed at how some people think it's something that is confined to a small percentage of miscreants. Just look at the number of dispensaries - you can't get that kind of proliferation without a huge customer base.

  • mootsagootsa||

    Actually Gary Johnson supports the legalization og medical marijuana.

  • ||

    You don't say. Who is this 'Gary Johnson' character you speak of?

  • ||

    Oops, sorry...

    didn't see the 'paul's the only guy' comment

    *shakes fist at squirrels, nested comments, and sky*

  • ||

    If Ron Paul wasn't running, I'd vote Gary Johnson. Dr. Paul is the man right now as far as I'm concerned. Our country doesn't understand just how spot on he is about sound economics, civil liberties and non-interventionism. As for medical mj, cannabis has been used as medicine for thousands of years but in the " land of the free " It's been illegal for the last 80 years as they pump us full of antidepressants and propaganda. We must be the most wilfully ignorant civilization since the dawn of man.

  • SIV||

    74 years, close enough though.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Get real, JI. California's electoral votes are sewn up. Obama could deploy flying killer robots to blow up every house in the state with an underwater mortgage and still get walk away with California.

    The only real question is whether that is the result of blind idiotic partisanship or because GENERIC_REPUBLICAN_CANDIDATE is every bit as clueless and ineffectual as Obama himself.

  • Paul||

    Yeah, we've been through this a thousand times on Reason before anyway.

    There's a serious cognitive disconnect in this country between who you vote for vs. what you believe in.

    We've seen districts in AZ wanting to legalize medical marijuana who vote overwhelmingly for Joe Arpaio.

    Drug reform is a niche issue that doesn't even drive the election within the group that believes in reform.

    There are 50,000 young, male, pro-marijuana activists that will pull the lever for Obama, and pull hard while in their mind saying, "I hope he gets those corporations..."

  • ||

    Arpaio voters did NOT pass Prop 203

  • Robert||

    Nobody voting for candidates votes on the basis of med mj if they're in favor; any other basis has priority. However, apparently there is a small, but unopposed, sector of voters who'll vote on the basis of med mj and are against, because for them the issue has priority over at least some other matters.

    So support for med mj is wide but extremely thin, while opposition to med mj is narrow but has enough thickness to matter.

    I asked once on the DRC network e-mail list whether people would vote for a certain candidate if he was pro-mj, and the answer was uniformly hell no. Even the mj activists are more interested in other issues than in med mj.

  • Denis Reynolds||

    California is not a state. It is a cult.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Obama's out to prove that he's a real American, just like Teddy Roosevelt and John Wayne and George Bush. He kills terrorists who threaten national security and cracks down on drug dealers who threaten the health and safety of our children. He uses the bully pulpit to put capitalists in their place. This is what hope and change looks like. Get ready for supercharged hope and change in 2013, boys and girls.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This just in: Barack Obama is a liar.

  • A liar||

    How dare you.

  • chrispy||

    your a racist.

    And yes, I spelled it "your" because I'm retarded.

  • Apatheist||

    In a just world this would be a scandal up there with Solyndra and Fast and Furious. At this point it isn't just some broken campaign promise but continously saying one thing and doing the opposite.

  • ||

    He is consistent.

  • Brandon||

    Do they think this will distract people from Fast and Furious and Solyndra? Or are they just pissed that one sector of the economy is still doing well?

  • LarryA||

    Do they think this will distract people from Fast and Furious and Solyndra? Or are they just pissed that one sector of the economy is still doing well?

    Gun shops are doing pretty well. And grant writers. You have a trifecta.

  • Bummer||

    Too bad pot smokers are too mellow to use guns. Drunks wouldn't take this shit non-violently.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Too bad pot smokers are too mellow to use guns.

    Huh? Where were you during the 1990's?

  • Fire Tiger||

    According to Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to the president's drug czar, this is about maintaining
    the sanctity of this country's medication approval process.

  • Apatheist||

    I can neither confirm or deny that the sanctity of Kevin Sabet's asshole has been violated by a sheep.

  • Invisible Finger||

    I think we all knew it was run by sanctimonious bureaucrats.

  • Harry J Anslinger||

    Marihuana is "safe and effective" at luring young white virgins into the lascivious clutches of Negro jazz musicians and Mexican laborers.

  • jazz is hard||

    I'm going to learn Spanish and buy a leaf blower.

  • Denis Reynolds||

    I hope the next prostitute Kevin Sabet buys laughs at the size of his penis then the resulting series of events leads to Clint Eastwood getting revenge on a bunch of sadistic, sick bastards.

  • Colin||

    Prediction: the Occupiers won't complain an iota about this.

  • lazy hippies||

    That's non-medical marijuana.

  • mootsagootsa||

    It's O.K. for the government to sell guns to the Mexican drug lords but want to steal peoples land and lock people up for growing a plant, which, like it or not, is a gift from God. to top thinks off there is no known better medicine for glaucoma, than marijuana. When will our country get past the witch trials.

  • Warty||

    Remember those T-shirts that had Bush's face on them and the caption "I bet you'll vote next time, hippy"? How'd voting for TEAM BLUE work out for you, hippies?

  • Paul||

    Never underestimate the government's will to regulate or ban something through sheer force of will.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Political Power was never a means to an end.

  • sailor||

    Well, I happen to know that 12 of the 16 went to collectives in San Diego that were operating within 600 feet of a school in violation of state law. So at least in those cases, the letters are consistent with the previous Holder policy of only going after those operating in violation of state law.

  • ||

    Eric Holder is a goddamn American [HERO], so you shut your goddamn [WHORE]-mouth@!

  • Paul||

    Help me out here. How did the dispensaries get licenses from the state if their businesses were located in a place which put them squarely in violation of state law?

  • sailor||

    No license from the state is required. Just a business license (which they have all filed for and paid but the city has refused to issue) and a seller's permit to collect sales tax.

  • Citation Addict||

    "Well, I happen to know that 12 of the 16 went to collectives in San Diego that were operating within 600 feet of a school in violation of state law."

    MMMMMM Citation?

  • sailor||

    They were cited by the city. They received cease and desist letters with a 60 day window. After the 60 days the city sued them and asked a state judge for an injunction to order them closed pending the outcome (common in these cases). The state judge issued the injunction and ordered them closed. Then the US DA sent the letters.

  • kilroy||

    Not saying you're wrong but I don't think that qualifies as a citation.

  • MLA official||

    [Citation needed]

  • Suki||

    This sucks.

  • MC Stogie||

    Oh wow, REALLY? Obama broke ANOTHER promise to his base? Geeeee who woulda seen THAT coming?

  • ||

    Obama broke ANOTHER promise to his base?

    I didn't know that the management of Goldman Sachs ever got the teleprompter-in-chief to make them any promise about the drug war.

    -jcr

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    This JCR comment has threadwinner potential.

  • Suki||

    +1

  • Carmen Senz||

    If you don't like marijuana, then don't use it.

  • ||

    Two things need to happen, right away:

    1. We must toss all the drug warriors from Congress and elect ONLY people who are pledged to end the drug war.

    2. We must toss all the warmongers from Congress and elect ONLY people who have promised to rescind the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

    Do your duty as a citizen and find a candidate who takes whatever "reasonable" positions you like on every other issue. They only have to be "unreasonable" about these two. Why? Because as the rock-n-rollers once sang, "Military Madness is killin' this country..." I want the United States to live, and these two key steps are the most important part of the cure. (Ending the Fed is the next key part, but that may take a while... I hope not, but I fear so.)

  • kilroy||

    I recommend Gary Johnson.

  • I wonder how many....||

    ...of those CSNY are Obama supporters and are now silent about the wars. Just google "david crosby obama" or "neil young obama" and see what you think....

  • looks like....||

    ...looks like crosby, nash and young should be ashamed of themselves. can't find a smoking gun on stills.

  • canada goose trillium sale||

    threatening criminal prosecution and forfeiture if they do not shut down within 45 days. A.P. says California's four U.S. attorneys.

  • ||

    I wonder what BO's motivation is. Well other than he is a stupid prick. Did Big Pharma complain? Do the cartels have some dirt on his administration? Was BO afraid tax court were going to allow business deduction for dispensaries?

    One is certain, if you run a cartel, this is good news.

  • Control, Baby, Control...||

  • Robert||

    So it's illegal, but within 1,000' of a park it's illegaler, and that's what makes the difference?

  • Binky||

    Isn't preventing relief for a poor victim who needs MM ... a hate crime?

  • ||

    can someone find out/post a link to which clubs exactly were sent notices? I'm kind of nervous right now.

  • Fire Tiger||

    You a narc aren't you. Trying to trap us into providing material support to the Mary Jane terrorist. Just another lacky for the man.

  • ¢||

    I'm kind of nervous right now.

    Don't smoke the brown weed.

    B) Aren't you pot guys ashamed of yourselves, just a little? You've become highly attentive to every moment-by-moment fluctuation in the government's relationship status with you. You used to be cool (I guess). You're cops now.

    Cops inside.

    Man.

  • Another depressing day....||

    ....at reason H&R:

    Obama's DOJ Medical Marijuana Crackdown.
    Thirteen-year-old student strip searched at school.
    Obama's Justice Department abetting more civil forfeitures.
    Obama's Secret Assassination-List Death Panel.
    Obamacare breaking the bank.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    But... BUSH!!!

  • ||

    And you thought your testes were safe when Balko bolted.

  • BigT||

    "It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen"

  • erik||

    OMG, HUGE SURPRISE. OBAMA LIES AGAIN!!!!

    ALL THIS CHANGE IS MIND BLOWING!!

    WHAT A WASTE!

  • mustard||

    It's still a lot easier to get a bag of mj than to get a job, so it makes sense that us in the 999% base our votes on jobs instead of these silly distractions. Plus in practice the right has been worse on the drug war.

  • np||

    You know despite the loud seemingly popular support for Prop 19, there's still a lot of people (those who vote anyways). For example, AARP was one of those who opposed, urging members to vote against, with editorials in AARP mag proclaiming the badness of teh drugz.

    Of course the irony is that it would not have mattered one bit considering this move shows how Federal Government Restriction > State Freedom

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    I've had this vague feeling for some time that AARP (more than any other lobby) has designs on oppressing my generation and I for a long time.

    I see why Pete Townshend wanted to die before he got old.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    AARP will never see one cent of my money (directly). I look forward to telling them to kiss my white ass.

  • CatoTheElder||

    CatoTheElder sends back their postage-paid envelopes that they include invitations with a few choice words expressing the same sentiment.

  • Kristen||

    My Ma & Pa dropped their membership a while back.

    And don't old people get cancer at a higher rate that those crazy young whippersnappers? Meaning, old folks would benefit from some weed a lot more than young'uns.

  • Atanarjuat||

    So you can't buy medicine during a little league game, if that medicine is marijuana. I'm sure pharmacies selling oxycodone stay open.

  • GSL||

    Also, if the backlash over the DOJ action is too intense, no worries, the Obama Admin has a backup plan to get these dispensaries shut down: the IRS.

  • Number 2||

    "Its current position is that the forbearance promised by Obama and Holder applies only to patients."

    Read the fine print, my friend. Team Obama says that forbearance applies only to "seriously ill" patients.

    I know weasel words when I see them. Mark my words; the next crackdown will be against patients who are deemed by Team Obama not to be "seriously ill."

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