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Feds launch major crackdown against California marijuana industry

Young marijuana plants grow in a field.
Young marijuana plants grow in a field.
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

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The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is no longer turning a blind eye to pot shops across the state. On Friday, it took legal action against eight marijuana storefronts in Orange County, a trafficking ring in the San Fernando Valley and issued warning letters to 38 more stores across the state.

In case words speak louder than actions, the US State Attorneys for California held a joint news conference in Sacramento to announce the major crackdown. US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said "While California law permits collective cultivation of marijuana in limited circumstances, it does not allow commercial distribution through the store-front model we see across California."

Since Proposition 215 cleared the way for medical marijuana dispensaries, thousands of stores have opened across the state. Under President George W. Bush, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided some marijuana operations. But when President Barack Obama first took office it was said DEA raids would stop. During his campaign, Obama said, "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue." Reportedly, his position inspired even more pot shops to open.

At last week's (FRI) DOJ news conference, the US Attorneys stressed they believe the shops were commercial, for-profit enterprises. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said, "The department has maintained that we will not focus our investigative and prosecutorial resources on individual patients with serious illness like cancer or their immediate caregivers."


What do you think inspired the crackdown? Will these marijuana operators be able to use state laws to mount an effective defense? What about medical marijuana dispensaries in your neighborhood? Will they be forced to shut down almost immediately? Will California Attorney General Kamala Harris step in to defend Proposition 215?


André Birotte Jr., US State Attorney in Los Angeles, Department of Justice