Medical Marijuana Crackdown by Feds as State Senate Ponders Bill to Protect Dispensaries

Friday, June 15, 2012

Federal prosecutors indicted six people June 14 on drug conspiracy and possession charges for their connections to three medical marijuana dispensaries in Southern California that the government ordered shut down last year.

Those indicted include the co-founders of G3 Holistic Stores in Upland, Colton and Moreno Valley. Among the government allegations are a conspiracy to manufacture and possess marijuana with intent to distribute. Penalties range from a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison to a possible life sentence.

California’s four U.S. Attorneys announced last October that they were cracking down on pot shops which until then had flourished amid lax oversight and conflicting state and federal laws. Hundreds of dispensaries throughout the state quickly went out of business as fears of eviction and prosecution spread. The indictments were part of the second criminal case to be brought in the Los Angeles region since October, but authorities have targeted more than 220 dispensaries or indoor cultivation houses in the seven-county Central District of California alone, according to U.S. Attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek.  

California became the first state in the nation to allow medical marijuana when voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, but the possession or sale of cannabis remains illegal under federal law.

The arrests came just days after the state Assembly approved legislation that would create a statewide system for regulating medical marijuana, including formation of the first-ever “cannabis commission.” The bill passed 41-30 without a single Republican vote and faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Supporters of the bill hope that it would undercut federal complaints that the state was turning a blind eye to rampant abuse of the law and were allowing widespread use of marijuana by people without a legitimate medical need. The bill would require dispensaries, cultivators and other medical cannabis businesses to register with the state. Individual patients and caregivers would be exempt. A state board would make rules for the industry, pre-empting local regulations except for zoning. Local governments would be authorized to assess a local tax of up to 5% on medical cannabis sales.

-Ken Broder

To Learn More:

Feds Attack California's Medical Marijuana Trade-Again (by Dan Whitcomb, Reuters)

6 Charged as Part of Fed Crackdown on CA Pot Shops (Associated Press)

Assembly Bill 2312 (California Legislative Information)

California Assembly Passes Medical Marijuana Regulation Bill (by California NORML Director Dale Gieringer)  

California Cannabis Commission Approved by State Assembly (by Carly Schwartz, Huffington Post)

Leave a comment