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Feds target 71 medical marijuana dispensaries in L.A. County

September 25, 2012 |  2:37 pm

Dispensary

Federal authorities on Tuesday took legal action against 71 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County, part of an ongoing campaign to crack down on the establishments.

“Over the past several years, we have seen an explosion of commercial marijuana stores -– an explosion that is being driven by the massive profits associated with marijuana distribution,” said U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. in a statement.  “As today’s operations make clear, the sale and distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and we intend to enforce the law. Even those stores not targeted today should understand that they cannot continue to profit in violation of the law.”

According to the U.S. attorney's office, officials sent warning letters to 68 pot dispensaries, filed forfeiture lawsuits against three properties that house such businesses and served search warrants at three additional facilities.

Officials said most of the pot stores were in Eagle Rock, downtown Los Angeles and Huntington Park.

Federal officials carried out the action in concert with local authorities, including the Los Angeles Police Department.

The federal actions involve 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.

Last year, California's four U.S. attorneys announced that they were taking aim at large-scale growers and dispensary owners who are raking in millions of dollars while falsely claiming that their medical marijuana operations comply with state law, which does not allow for-profit sales.

In the early days of President Obama's tenure, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that prosecutors would not target medical marijuana users and caregivers as long as they followed state laws. But as the risk of prosecution diminished, storefront dispensaries and enormous growing operations proliferated in California, often in brazen defiance of zoning laws and local bans.

Pot dispensaries in other parts of California have already been targeted.

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-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: A man leaves a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles in June. Federal authorities took action against 71 Los Angeles County dispensaries Tuesday. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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