Federal prosecutors in California announced on Friday a full-press crackdown on the state's commercial marijuana industry, saying they will not allow large-scale, for-profit enterprises in the name of medical marijuana.
The federal law enforcement effort was announced in a news conference in Sacramento by the four regional U.S. attorneys in the state, including Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California.
California's voter-approved Compassionate Use Act of 1996 allows seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with a doctor's permission, but federal laws criminalizing marijuana make no exception for state laws.
"Large commercial operations cloak their money-making activities in the guise of helping sick people when they are in fact helping themselves," U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner of Sacramento said.
"Our interest is in enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously ill sick people and those who are caring for them," Wagner continued.
The four U.S. attorneys said the enforcement actions will include civil forfeiture lawsuits against properties used in marijuana growing, warning letters to owners of property where marijuana is sold and criminal prosecutions.
"Marijuana stores operating in proximity to schools, parks and other areas where children are present send the wrong message to those in our society who are the most impressionable," Haag said.
Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole said the Justice Department "will not focus our investigative and prosecutorial resources on individual patients with serious illnesses like cancer or their immediate caregivers."
Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, called the crackdown "a full frontal assault on medical cannabis."
- Bay City News