Federal prosecutors should be careful not to overreach in their crackdown on California’s medical marijuana dispensaries, even though there are ambiguities in the state’s medical marijuana laws, the state attorney general said Thursday.
The law passed 15 years ago by California voters has issues that must be resolved either by the state Legislature or the courts, state Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement.
However, Harris said she was worried that “an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California.”
She urged federal authorities to make sure their enforcement efforts are focused on significant traffickers of illegal drugs and not patients.
Harris, a Democrat in her first year as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, made her statement in response to inquiries from the media about the crackdown announced two weeks ago by the four federal prosecutors in California.
They have ordered dozens of medical marijuana clubs to close, saying the operations are too close to places where children gather or are being used as fronts for drug dealers.
The four U.S. attorneys said they were sending letters to landlords who rent retail and warehouse spaces to pot collectives and growers saying they could be prosecuted for aiding illegal enterprises. The letters inform landlords that their properties could be forfeited and their tenants could be thrown into prison for up to 40 years unless the dispensaries close.
DEA agents conducted raids on two more California medical marijuana dispensaries Monday and officials in Sacramento and several other cities have since stopped issuing business permits to dispensaries.
After two years during which the Obama Administration said they wouldn’t move aggressively against medical marijuana providers abiding by state law, the federal government started cracking down earlier this year with threatening letters from U.S. Attorneys to governors and legislators in most of the 16 states which allow medicinal cannabis.
The effort to shutter California dispensaries is part of a multi-pronged assault by the federal government on the shops.
Banks are cutting business ties with dispensaries, possibly under federal pressure and undoubtedly due to federal banking rules as they pertain to “illegal drugs.” On a related front, the Internal Revenue Service is investigating the finances of some California dispensaries including Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, alleging the shop owes millions of dollars in back taxes.