Federal Officials Threaten Crackdown on Medical Pot Growers

Obama administration officials oppose plans by the city of Oakland to license and tax industrial sized medical cannabis producers, according to a published report this week by 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.

Russo had previously voiced objections to the legislation, and had issued a memo to members of the City Council in August raising legal concerns about the plan, The Bay Citizen reported on Tuesday.

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

It has been estimated that the four facilities could yield the city between $4.8 million and $7.7 million per year in tax revenues.

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 raise questions regarding its previously stated position that, “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.”

AlterNet / By Paul Armentano

Posted at December 8, 2010, 1:28pm

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