In October of 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice began to step-up its efforts to shut down marijuana dispensaries in California. Even though California voters approved the California Compassionate Use Act, a law permitting people to use marijuana for medical reasons, possessing and selling marijuana violates federal drug laws. Justice Department officials and California U.S. Attorneys are using their authority under federal law to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries across the state.
Federal authorities claim that they are not trying to prosecute individuals who use marijuana for legitimate medical reasons. Rather, they have been focusing on marijuana dispensaries throughout the state, investigating them for profiting on marijuana sales. Many of the cooperatives purport to be non-profit organizations. However, authorities allege that medical marijuana dispensaries have been “hijacked by profiteers,” as Northern District U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag phrased it in a press conference, which have collected money for marijuana in violation of the law. State law only allows dispensaries to collect money to cover the expenses for growing marijuana plants and operating the dispensary.
In addition to money issues, federal agents say that in their investigations of the state’s dispensaries they found many are operating closer to schools and playgrounds than the law allows.
45 Days to Shut Down
Federal agents sent warnings to dispensaries throughout the state that they had 45 days to close, or they risked criminal prosecution and forfeiture of their property. Government officials not only went after those running the dispensaries, but the landlords of the buildings in which the dispensaries operate, as well.
Confusion Surrounding Marijuana Laws
Given the conflict at the state and federal levels marijuana laws can be confusing. It is easy for people to inadvertently violate the law when all they are trying to do is obtain medicine or help others do so. If you are facing drug charges for medical marijuana cultivation, do not hesitate to contact an attorney who can help defend your rights.