The line between legal and illegal weed-dealing in California has been notoriously murky the last couple years.
State and federal courts are now trying to clear up the confusion — but are falling on the harsh side of the line, much to the dismay of Los Angeles County's semi-rogue medical marijuana industry.
U.S. attorneys have indicated that they plan on cracking down on the state's booming pot business, via stern letters to a handful of dispensaries:
The Associated Press says the letters warn at least 16 stores that “they must shut down in 45 days or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property even if they are operating legally under the state's 15-year-old medical-marijuana law.”
The feds are expected to officially announce the crackdown at a Friday news conference.
In another (oddly simultaneous) blow to the weed industry, a panel of judges on California's 2nd District appellate court ruled this week that “cities could restrict marijuana dispensaries, but they can't do anything that would appear to give them approval or legitimacy,” according to NBC LA.
The pot-shop regulation system in stonery Long Beach, in particular, has been under negative scrutiny after city officials held a lottery allowing a certain number of dispensaries to stay open. (In fact, opposition to that decision is what brought the issue into court in the first place.)
Jane Usher, an assistant City Attorney in Los Angeles familiar with the pot debate, tells NBC that — in reaction to the court ruling — small cities will likely “ban dispensaries outright, in order to avoid violating federal law.”
And as for Los Angeles, which has tried using the Long Beach “lottery” approach in the past to get a grip on the hundreds of shops springing up across the city, Usher thinks this will “up-end efforts … to regulate its many pot dispensaries.”
All in all, it looks like this joint state and federal crackdown is fixed to turn attempts at “regulation” into outright suppression. Up until now, the thriving industry has relied on the fact that no one's really checking up on it — clearly not the case anymore.