The U.S. Attorney's Office has threatened to sue Mendocino County over its money-making medical marijuana cultivation permits, county officials confirmed Wednesday.
The warning was delivered during a Jan. 3 meeting between County Counsel Jeanine Nadel and representatives of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Nadel said.
In response, county supervisors will review the pot permit ordinance on Jan. 24.
The program already has been suspended pending the outcome of a Southern California court case that questioned the legitimacy of issuing permits for medical marijuana-related endeavors.
County Supervisor John McCowen, who was instrumental in creating the county's permit ordinance, criticized the threat and the federal crackdown initiated last year against medical marijuana operations and dispensaries.
Such actions "will have the effect of driving medical marijuana back underground, making it more illegal, profitable and dangerous," he said Wednesday.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.
Supervisors will be considering changes to the ordinance that would bring it into compliance with the current status of the Los Angeles case, McCowen said. That likely would include an end to the permits and changeover to regulations, which appear to be more acceptable to the courts, he said.
The essence of the court case is "you can regulate but you can't permit," McCowen said.
Abandoning the permits would mean a loss of income to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office. The permits, inspections and identifying zip ties generated $663,230 for the department last year.