.Feds Crack Down

HANDS OFF? Last week, four U.S. attorneys in California announced they are targeting cannabis clubs in a coordinated crackdown.

SAN JOSE pot dispensaries have a lot more to worry about than the city’s new regulations. In the middle of a signature drive to repeal the city’s zoning regulations and permitting process, U.S. attorneys in California announced last week a coordinated crackdown on the state’s cannabis clubs.

Four U.S. attorneys have already sent letters threatening to seize land leased to cannabis clubs. Letters have so far been sent out to landlords in San Francisco, San Diego and Marin, giving them 45 days to kick out any medical marijuana operations. The feds seem to be targeting larger clubs and those operating within 1,000 feet of schools.

“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,” said Melinda Haag, attorney general for the Northern District of California. “In addition, the huge profits generated by these stores, and the value of their inventory, present a danger that the stores will become a magnet for crime, which jeopardizes the safety of nearby children.”

News of the letters leaked the night before the U.S. attorney press conference. Cannabis activists wasted no time blasting the announcement. “It’s an outrageous abuse of law enforcement resources for the Department of Justice to use property forfeiture to enforce meddlesome, nanny-state regulations,” said Dale Gieringer, director of CaNORML, the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “The federal government has no business dictating local zoning decisions.”

Dispensary operators in San Jose wouldn’t comment on the new tactic, but most were feeling rattled.

James Anthony, chairman for the Citizens Coalition for Patient Care, the organization currently collecting voter signatures to repeal San Jose’s regulations, said the announcement wouldn’t change the signature drive for a November referendum that would repeal the city’s new regulatory program.

The crackdown is the latest in a string of recent federal government maneuvers that target dispensaries without going after patients. Last week, the IRS ruled that Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, which has a sister site here in San Jose, can’t take standard business deductions for payroll, security or rent. The collective now owes $2.5 million in taxes. Some dispensaries have had their bank accounts closed out after the DEA began pressuring banks.

Jim Sibley, the Santa Clara deputy district attorney who put together the county’s protocol for dealing with collectives, said he has heard about, but not seen, a letter supposedly being sent out to a particular collective in San Jose.

“Why do these places get picked? What are they doing differently?” said Sibley. “It could simply be size. Generally, it’s been anyone who moves beyond 99 plants, you go on the federal radar.”

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