Drug Law

Obama, Holder Threaten Crackdown on Calif. Pot Growers

| by NORML

By Paul Armentano

Obama administration officials strongly oppose plans by the city of Oakland to license and tax industrial sized medical cannabis producers, according to a just published report on CaliforniaWatch.org, the website of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Sources at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the United States attorney’s office in San Francisco said that federal officials would likely pursue criminal or civil litigation against local marijuana growers as well as Oakland city officials if they decide to move forward with plans to license medical cannabis farming. “Oakland would be on the hook for violating state and federal law,” an unnamed administration official told the website.

Oakland City Attorney John Russo confirmed that DOJ officials are opposed to the city’s licensing plan. “They’ve expressed their concerns that the path Oakland is taking is in violation of the law,” Russo said in a prepared statement.

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Oakland officials are seeking to license up to four industrial-sized medical marijuana grow operations within the city limits. The permits do not set limits regarding the quantity of cannabis that licensed producers may cultivate at each given site. City officials began accepting applications from prospective growers in November.

According to the California Watch report, federal officials are also planning to initiate a broader crack down on marijuana production and distribution statewide. The story reports that DOJ and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials met with California’s four U.S. attorneys on November 10 “to develop a plan to deal with some of the loopholes and gray areas in the state’s medical marijuana program.”

The administration’s threats appear to be in conflict with an October 19, 2009 DOJ memo stating, “As a general matter, pursuit of [federal law enforcement] priorities should not focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Nevertheless, as previously reported by Americans for Safe Access and others, the administration since issuing that memo has engaged in an estimated 30 federal raids of medical marijuana providers, producers, and laboratory facilities that engage in the testing of cannabis potency and quality.

NORML will have further details on this story in Thursday’s weekly media advisory.