Federal crackdown on pot clubs pointed at California

Federal prosecutors have launched a crackdown on California medical marijuana dispensaries, but it's unclear whether any pot clubs in Sonoma County are targeted.

The enforcement push appears to be aimed at large-scale operators, said William Panzer, an Oakland attorney who represents Marvin's Gardens Herbal Cooperative, a Guerneville dispensary.

U.S. attorneys sent letters this week to at least 16 pot clubs or landlords warning them to shut down in 45 days or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property, even if they are operating under the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana law.

Marvin's Gardens wasn't one of them, Panzer said.

In an escalation of the ongoing conflict between the U.S. government and the nation's burgeoning medical marijuana industry, the prosecutors said they are violating federal drug laws, even though medical marijuana is legal in California.

The state's four U.S. attorneys are scheduled to announce a broader coordinated crackdown at a Friday news conference.

Their offices refused to confirm the closure orders. The Associated Press obtained copies of the letters that a prosecutor sent to at least 12 San Diego dispensaries. They state that federal law "takes precedence over state law and applies regardless of the particular uses for which a dispensary is selling and distributing marijuana.

"Under United States law, a dispensary's operations involving sales and distribution of marijuana are illegal and subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions," letters signed by U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy in San Diego read.

"Real and personal property involved in such operations are subject to seizure by and forfeiture to the United States ... regardless of the purported purpose of the dispensary."

The move comes a little more than two months after the Obama administration toughened its stand on medical marijuana following a two-year period during which federal officials had indicated they would not move aggressively against dispensaries in compliance with laws in the 16 states where pot is legal for people with doctors' recommendations.

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