California attorney general says feds should show restraint in medical marijuana crackdown

Federal prosecutors should be careful not to overreach in their crackdown on California’s pot dispensaries, even though there are ambiguities in the state’s medical marijuana laws, the state attorney general said Thursday. The law passed 15 years ago by California voters has ambiguities that must be resolved either by the state Legislature or the courts, state Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. However, Harris said she was worried that “an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California.”

She urged federal authorities to make sure their enforcement efforts are focused on significant traffickers of illegal drugs. Harris, a Democrat in her first year as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, made her statement in response to inquiries from the media about the crackdown announced two weeks ago by the four federal prosecutors in California. They have ordered dozens of medical marijuana clubs to close, saying the operations are too close to places where children gather or are being used as fronts for drug dealers.

Harris acknowledged that she shares the concerns of federal prosecutors about the proliferation of gangs and criminal enterprises that seek to exploit the medical marijuana law. The four U.S. attorneys said they were sending letters to landlords who rent retail and warehouse spaces to pot collectives and growers saying they could be prosecuted and have their properties confiscated by the government for aiding illegal enterprises. Officials in Sacramento and several other cities have since stopped issuing business permits to dispensaries. State law allows marijuana possession by residents with written doctors’ recommendations.

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