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U.S. attorneys announce crackdown on marijuana shops

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California's four U.S. attorneys gathered in Sacramento Friday to announce a coordinated effort aimed at combating illegal marijuana operations in the state.

The federal prosecutors seek to shut down the large, for-profit marijuana industry they say has developed since the passage of California’s Proposition 215 in 1996.

“The California marijuana industry is not about providing medicine to the sick,” said Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney in San Diego. “It’s a pervasive, for-profit industry that violates federal law. In addition to damaging our environment, this industry is creating significant negative consequences, in California and throughout the nation.

"As the number one marijuana producing state in the country, California is exporting not just marijuana but all the serious repercussions that come with it, including significant public safety issues and perhaps irreparable harm to our youth.”

The statewide enforcement efforts include civil forfeiture lawsuits against properties involved in drug trafficking activity; letters of warning to the owners and lien holders of properties where illegal marijuana sales are taking place; and criminal cases targeting commercial marijuana activities.

“The actions taken today in California by our U.S. attorneys and their law enforcement partners are consistent with the (Justice) Department’s commitment to enforcing existing federal laws, including the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), in all states,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “The department has maintained that we will not focus our investigative and prosecutorial resources on individual patients with serious illnesses like cancer or their immediate caregivers. However, U.S. attorneys continue to have the authority to prosecute significant violations of the CSA, and related federal laws.”

Dozens of letters have been sent over the past few days to the owners and lien holders of properties where commercial marijuana stores and grows are located. In the Southern and Eastern districts, the owners of buildings where marijuana stores operate have received letters warning that they risk losing their property and money derived from renting the space used for marijuana sales.

In a San Diego dispensary case unsealed last week, six defendants were charged in a 77-count indictment that alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy that included numerous marijuana sales to under-aged persons.

Earlier this week, a San Diego Superior Court judge signed orders closing nine local marijuana dispensaries in response to a complaint filed by the San Diego city attorney's office.

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said he plans to seek injunctions against additional marijuana dispensaries that are in violation of federal and local laws.

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