Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2009 that federal agents would only target marijuana distributors who violate federal and state laws. Some interpreted Holder’s remarks as marijuana chocolate meaning that federal agents would not prosecute medical marijuana users in California, since medical marijuana is legal in that state.
Holder stated, “We will not prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws regarding medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who use state laws to conceal activities that are clearly illegal.”
As Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project noted, Holder’s decision “moves the federal government dramatically toward respecting scientific and practical reality.”
Crackdown By Federal Government – California:
- In 2009:
According to Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, he wants to close marijuana dispensaries that sell marijuana at a profit to people who don’t qualify for medical marijuana. Most dispensaries are not following the guidelines of Proposition 215.
The Los Angeles City Council is considering an ordinance that ‘could close hundreds of dispensaries.’ The ordinance would allow member-owned collectives to sell medical marijuana, but the shops would have to be at least 1,000 feet from schools, churches, and hospitals.
- In 2011-2012:
California’s marijuana dispensaries were targeted by the federal government beginning in October 2011. According to the government:
- They confiscated marijuana, cash, and computers from 36 dispensaries and growers.
- The state’s four U.S. attorneys sent letters to 150 or more dispensary landlords ordering them to evict their tenants or face property seizure and criminal prosecution.
- Threatening cities and counties that have tried to establish permit systems for marijuana dispensaries and growers.
- Exerted pressure on banks to close marijuana-related accounts through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
- The IRS used an obscure provision of the federal tax code to audit dozens of dispensaries, and as a result Harborside in Oakland (the state’s largest dispensary) was ordered to pay $2.5 million in back taxes.
The Dispensaries & Cites of California:
To prevent marijuana-growing businesses in their cities, some California cities have adopted ordinances which require businesses operating within city limits to comply with federal and state laws. The city of Lindsay, for example, adopted a medical marijuana ordinance in January 2006 that states, “Legal Use of Land: No use of land is permitted within the city limits if such use violates any local, state, or federal law.”
A day after the Purple Elephant opened as a pot club on the West End of Alameda in 2008, the City of Alameda revoked its business license and passed an emergency ordinance to prevent any other medical marijuana dispensaries from opening. The Alameda City Council has indicated it is likely to adopt a permanent ordinance banning pot clubs in the city by early 2010.
- Long Beach
The City of Long Beach adopted an ordinance regulating its medical dispensaries in August 2009. It is estimated that 39 dispensaries are operating in Long Beach.
A 32-page insert on marijuana shops in Sacramento was published in the April 15, 2010 edition of the Sacramento News & Review. A color map (“The Marijuana Map”) appeared in the insert. According to Sacramento’s insert, there are at least 46 marijuana dispensaries, 8 businesses that sell hydroponic supplies for those who prefer to grow their own, and 9 doctors who write marijuana prescriptions.
- San Joaquin:
An unincorporated area of San Joaquin County was temporarily banned from selling marijuana in April 2010.
- Los Angeles:
Los Angeles City Council members voted 9-3 to limit dispensaries in the city to 70 on Tuesday, January 26. The city will allow the 186 dispensaries that are already registered to temporarily remain open. The licenses of pot shops obtained in 2007 are grandfathered.
- The January 2010 ordinance limits the number of dispensaries to 70 and increases the distance between dispensaries and schools, parks, churches and private residences.
- Additionally, the ordinance states that medical marijuana dispensaries can only be open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., imposes security requirements, and says that each patient may get prescriptions filled only once at a dispensary.