Federal authorities today moved to shut down all marijuana dispensaries in the downtown area and Eagle Rock as well as one in the city of Huntington Park.
The move is part of an ongoing effort by the feds to put an end to Southern California's retail pot business, which the U.S. government does not recognize as legit despite the Golden State's medical marijuana laws.
According to an announcement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A., targets include …
… all known marijuana stores in the Eagle Rock and downtown areas of Los Angeles, as well as the single store known to be operating in Huntington Park.
You heard that right.
Federal authorities sent warning letters — which tell operators to shut down — to 68 stores. Additionally, three shops were hit with asset-forfeiture lawsuits and another three were raided via search warrant, according to the office.
The asset forfeiture lawsuits targeted dispensaries along Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, including, according to the U.S. Attorney's statement:
The Together for Change Collective, which previously was the subject of a civil abatement action filed by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office and search warrants executed by the LAPD. During an LAPD investigation against a prior store at the same location in May 2011, officers seized more than 500 marijuana plants and over $5,000 in cash from the store, as well as $14,912 in cash and a semi-automatic rifle from the home of one of the store's operators;
House of Kush, where the store and property owner are the subjects of a civil abatement action filed by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office; and
ER Collective, where LAPD executed a search warrant in June 2010 on a prior store at the same location and seized approximately 11.4 kilograms of marijuana, 4.5 kilograms of hashish, liquid THC and $17,000 in cash.
The search-warrant raids this morning happened at:
Happy Ending Collective at 818 N. Spring St., which is believed to be the largest marijuana store in the downtown Los Angeles area;
Green Light Pharmacy at 522 S. Lorena St., which was the target of a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigation in early 2012 that determined that the operation was in violation of federal and state laws; and
Fountain of Wellbeing, 3835 Fountain Ave., which has been the subject of repeated calls for police service since 2011.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck hailed the actions:
As I've said before, in Los Angeles some medical marijuana clinics have been taken over by illegal for-profit businesses that sell recreational marijuana to healthy young adults and attract crime. These stores are a source of criminal activity because of the product they sell and large amounts of cash they have on hand. The LAPD will continue to work with our federal partners to remove these threats from our communities.”
With the city's dispensary ban on hold and some on the City Council asking for federal help in dealing with pot shops in L.A., this might give you a taste of the direction local officials are headed in order to regulate (or annihilate) medical weed sellers.
[Added at 3:08 p.m.]: Kris Hermes of medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access decried the crackdown and characterized it as a surprise.
He told the Weekly:
As far as we were concerned there had been little to no federal activity in the city of L.A. This does represent an escalation in the area.
But, he said, “There have been indications that this might be coming given the City Council's desire to cooperate with the federal government:”
Federal and local officials are aware they hold the cards at federal level and can do what they want whether or not people are abiding by state law. City officials are using that as a pretext because it takes pressure off of them.
Is there hope for the medical marijuana nation in Los Angeles?
Hermes said his group, ASA, was headed to court Oct. 16 to challenge the federal government's “Schedule I” outlaw status for marijuana. If the drug is downgraded to Schedule II or lower, it would have legal medical uses and that could, Hermes says …
… undermine the Obama administration's efforts to go after the medical marijuana community. At that time we'll see a debate about the actual science and medical efficacy. Depending on how the court rules, we could see a reclassification of marijuana in the near future. It would take the wind out of the sails of the DEA engaging in these SWAT-style raids they've been doing across the state.