California medical pot crackdown hits upscale Santa Barbara

LOS ANGELES Thu May 3, 2012 5:29pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A crackdown on California's medical marijuana supply chain by federal authorities targeting the state's illegal drug trade arrived this week in the affluent, coastal county of Santa Barbara.

The latest actions include three asset forfeiture lawsuits filed against properties housing marijuana operations and warning letters sent to people associated with 10 cannabis dispensaries deemed "illegal marijuana stores," federal officials said.

"All known marijuana stores in Santa Barbara County are now the subject of federal enforcement actions," a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles said.

The moves on Santa Barbara storefronts and cultivation facilities mark the fourth such sweep in recent months in the seven-county California region that ranks as the largest federal law-enforcement district in the nation, U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

He said authorities have gone after 150 pot stores in the district since October, when federal prosecutors announced a statewide crackdown on what they called a massive network of illegal cannabis suppliers established under the guise of California's medical marijuana law. Most of those stores have been closed, Mrozek said.

Similar crackdowns have been launched in other states as well, notably Colorado, Montana and Washington, in an escalation of friction between the federal government and states that have decriminalized marijuana for medical purposes.

California was the first to do so - in 1996 - and 15 other states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar statutes, though marijuana remains classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law.

Mrozek said federal authorities also conducted raids on a dispensary, on an indoor pot farm and on the homes of people identified as operators of those two facilities.

"No one's been arrested, nor do I anticipate anyone being arrested," Mrozek said, adding that the actions taken on Tuesday and Wednesday amounted to non-criminal enforcement.

One dispensary was hit with an asset forfeiture notice for operating as a not-for-profit business even though it lacks non-profit status for tax purposes, officials said. A warehouse run as an indoor cultivation center was singled out for using substandard and unpermitted electrical equipment.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (38)
911014ever wrote:
stupid federal gov., none of your business what Ca. does if the people voted it in. you have no right to interfer with anything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!always trying to get there cut of what isn’t theres!

May 03, 2012 5:41pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
gregbrew56 wrote:
Prohibition has never worked and never will.

May 03, 2012 5:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Skychief wrote:
Big Pharma influencing our government with campaign donations. Obama promised, not like he kept most of his promises, to leave this issue to the states. What gets me is that most of these operations have a federally approved 501(c)3 nonprofit license, then the government shuts them down for doing what they gave them the license for in the first place. Obama needs his campaign funds though and Big Pharma is pumping 1.5 million dollars a day inside the Beltway. Does anyone trust this administration to do what they promise?

May 03, 2012 6:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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