Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley told a small crowd of print and television reporters on Thursday that he would prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries for over-the-counter sales.
"The over-the-counter sales of marijuana for money is illegal," said Cooley who, along with City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, is targeting the roughly 800 marijuana dispensaries that opened up after the city council granted "hardship exemptions" in 2007.
"There are more dispensaries in Los Angeles than there are in the United States," Cooley said. Trutanich added that there have been at least one murder and 200 robberies at or near the dispensaries.
Cooley said state law bars sales of medical marijuana, and that pot
dispensaries are violating the Compassionate Use Act, a 1996 voter
initiative legalizing medical marijuana, as well as a 2003 state law
permitting collective cultivation, by profiting from the sales. Law
enforcement sources estimate that some pot dispensaries are making
upwards of $30,000 in pot sales a day.
Medical marijuana advocates claim that prosecutors are misinterpreting the law and that their actions will prevent thousands of seriously ill people from getting needed medicine.
Cooley said that legitimate collectives that are not violating the Compassionate Use Act "will be honored and respected by the law."
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Trutanich, who was holding a can of Raid, said that his office conducted undercover buys at three pot dispensaries and sent the samples to the Federal Drug Administration, which found that two of the samples contained an insecticide used to kill fire ants and termites.
"It is a pesticide we use sporadically in the United States," he said. "It is used in other countries to wipe out fire ants. Exposing [terminally ill people] to those levels of carcinogens is criminal."
Trutanich said his office plans to use a specific law to monitor pot growers "so the public knows what they are smoking."
The mini press conference was held outside Montebello's Quiet Cannon Restaurant, where law enforcement officers and prosecutors got together for a luncheon titled, "The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County," and which was sponsored by the California Narcotic Officers' Association. At least 100 medical marijuana advocates, who weren't allowed on the property, protested the luncheon.