Federal prosecutors filed lawsuits Tuesday aimed at seizing the assets of three medical marijuana dispensaries on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock as part of a wider enforcement action against 70 pot shops in Los Angeles and one in the City of Huntington Park.
The federal action, which involves all known marijuana dispensaries in Eagle Rock and downtown Los Angeles, comes just a little more than a week after marijuana advocates submitted enough signatures in a petition to force a referendum on the city's ban on such businesses.
“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 United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. in a prepared 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.”
The federal actions in Los Angeles were done with cooperation from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, and the Los City Attorney's office.
Federal prosecutors filed asset forfeiture lawsuits against the Together for Change Collective, a medical marijuana storefront operating at 2501 Colorado Blvd., where a prior marijuana store, American Eagle Collective, was raided by the LAPD in May on narcotics charges. Together for Change is already fighting a civil abatement lawsuit by the city attorney.
During the raid on American Eagle Collective, LAPD officers seized more than 500 marijuana plants and more than $5,000 in cash, as well as $14,912 in cash and a semi-automatic rifle from the home of one of the store’s operators, Birotte said.
Asset forfeiture complaints were also filed against ER Collective, which is located in the same storefront at 1121 Colorado Blvd. where the LAPD served a search warrant in June 2010, seizing about 25 pounds of marijuana, 10 pounds of hashish, liquid THC, and $17,000 in cash, according to Birotte.
The third Eagle Rock dispensary targeted in Tuesday’s enforcement was House of Kush, located at 1632 Colorado Blvd., which is also the target of a lawsuit by the city attorney’s office.
See the attached pdfs for details of the U.S. Attorney's asset forfeiture complaints against the three Eagle Rock marijuana dispensaries.
In separate enforcement actions Tuesday, federal Drug Enforcement Agency agents, accompanied by LAPD officers, served search warrants against three medical marijuana storefronts: Happy Ending Collective, 818 N. Spring St., downtown; Fountain of Wellbeing, 3835 Fountain Ave., in Silver Lake; and Green Light Pharmacy at 522 South Lorena St. in Huntington Park.
Federal prosecutors also sent warning letters to individuals associated with 68 marijuana stores that are either currently in business or were recently closed, the U.S. Attorney said. The warning letters give the storefront owners and landlords 14 days to comply with federal law or risk potential civil or criminal actions.
“As I’ve said before," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement included with the U.S. Attorney's announcement, "in Los Angeles some medical marijuana clinics have been taken over by illegal for-profit businesses that sell recreational marijuana to healthy young adults and attract crime. These stores are a source of criminal activity because of the product they sell and large amounts of cash they have on hand. The LAPD will continue to work with our federal partners to remove these threats from our communities."
Councilmember José Huizar applauded the federal enforcement actions, which began across California earlier this year.
“Storefront medical marijuana dispensaries are not contemplated under state law and are therefore illegal,” Huizar said in a prepared statement. While he supports the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, Huizar said, “the state needs to create a better way of providing access for seriously ill patients while removing the scores of profiteers and recreational users who currently dominate the market.”
Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council President Michael Larsen said he didn't have much to add to "the straightforward commentary" of the U.S. Attorney, LAPD Chief Beck and Councilmember Huizar, except to say that "sometimes the small voice of a strong community like Eagle Rock can make a difference and bring about change."
The best commentary on Tuesday's news, Larsen added, came from LA's Chief Deputy City Attorney Willaim Carter.
"The city has felt like it's been on its own trying to regulate hundreds of pot shops that don't want to be regulated," Carter was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "It's like, be careful what you asked for. If you don't want to be regulated by the locals, you will be regulated by the federal government."
Tuesday’s asset forfeiture lawsuits and warning letters bring to more than 375 the total number of illegal marijuana storefronts targeted so far in the Central District of California, the U.S. Attorney's statement said.
Most of the businesses previously targeted are closed, involved in eviction proceedings by landlords, or they have faced additional federal enforcement actions, the statement said.