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California Marijuana Dispensary Crackdown Faces Legal Challenge

Tracy Bloom |
October 27, 2011 | 4:30 p.m. PDT

Executive Editor

Medical marijuana supporters filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Thursday in an effort to stop the recent crackdown on dispensaries in California. The suit, filed by the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, claims the government is violating the 10th amendment by raiding licensed dispensaries and sending warning letters threatening to prosecute city officials for not regulating them.

The San Jose Mercury News reported:

Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access argued that the Justice Department has "instituted a policy to dismantle the medical marijuana laws of the state of California and to coerce its municipalities to pass bans on medical marijuana dispensaries" by means of aggressive raids, criminal prosecutions of medical marijuana patients and providers, and threats to local officials who implement the state's law.

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford said that although the Obama administration is entitled to enforce medical marijuana laws, the 10th Amendment forbids it from using coercive tactics to hijack the state's lawmaking functions. "This case is aimed at restoring California's sovereign and constitutional right to establish its own public health laws based on this country's federalist principles," he said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, are named as the defendants in the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, federal officials announced a crackdown on California medical marijuana dispensaries, threatening businesses with stiff punishments if they did not shut down within 45 days.

A lot of the targeted dispensaries, however, had already closed their doors. The Associated Press reported: "Many of the 38 Southern California pot outlets that were targeted in the letters already have closed because landlords, threatened with criminal charges or seizure of their assets, were given just two weeks to evict their tenants."

The Huffington Post reported that hundreds of marijuana advocates demonstrated outside a fundraser President Obama was attending in San Francisco on Tuesday, calling for the federal government to stop its crackdown on medicinal marijuana in the state.



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