By Phillip Smith
The Justice Department's revived offensive against medical marijuana distribution is expanding to include media outlets that advertise for dispensaries, a California US Attorney told California Watch in an interview this week.
Last week, the state's four US Attorneys held a joint news conference in Sacramento to announce they were targeting dispensary landlords and property owners, as well as going after dispensaries that violated the prosecutors' idea of what was permissible. Those included dispensaries located within a thousand feet or schools or parks (a federal -- not state -- sentencing enhancement) and dispensaries that did too much business -- more than 200 kilograms in a year.
Now, radio, TV, print, and electronic media are to be added to the list of those threatened by the feds. Laura Duffy, US Attorney for Southern California, said medical marijuana advertising is the next area she will be "going to be moving onto as part of the enforcement efforts in Southern California."
Federal law prohibits advertising illegal drugs. Although medical marijuana is legal under California law, the federal government stands firm in its contention that marijuana is illegal -- period.
"I'm not just seeing print advertising," Duffy said. "I'm actually hearing radio and seeing TV advertising. It's gone mainstream. Not only is it inappropriate -- one has to wonder what kind of message we're sending to our children -- it's against the law."
Duffy said she would first be "going after these folks with... notification that they are in violation of federal law." She also none too subtly mentioned that she has the power to seize properties.
Federal law targets anyone who "places" an ad for an illegal drug -- not the media owner -- but Duffy said she was taking an expansive view of the law. "If I own a newspaper... or I own a TV station, and I'm going to take in your money to place these ads, I'm the person who is placing these ads," Duffy said. "I am willing to read (the law) expansively and if a court wants to more narrowly define it, that would be up to the court."
First Amendment, meet the war on drugs.