Feds to Target Mobile Marijuana Delivery Services in San Diego

While most dispensaries have complied with a federal order to close, a handful are still operating in San Diego County

By Tony Shin and R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013  |  Updated 6:18 PM PDT
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FBI agents in San Diego are shifting focus from closing down medical marijuana dispensaries to cracking down on marijuana delivery services. NBC 7's Tony Shin has this exclusive report.

FBI agents in San Diego are shifting focus from closing down medical marijuana dispensaries to cracking down on marijuana delivery services. NBC 7's Tony Shin has this exclusive report.

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FBI agents in San Diego are shifting focus from closing down medical marijuana dispensaries to cracking down on marijuana delivery services.

The services called mobile dispensary agents advertise in the back of magazines and newspapers as a way for medicinal marijuana users to get their pot delivered.

William Sherman is the San Diego DEA's top commander and he believes mobile dispensary agents are "no different than a guy selling dime bags in the back of a van in Pacific Beach.”

“That's just a drug dealer" Sherman said.

The U.S. Attorney's office sent warning letters to operators and landlords of medicinal marijuana dispensaries in San Diego ordering them to shut down their businesses.

Landlords who rented to pot shops were warned to evict their tenants or face prosecution and lose their property.

For the past year and a half law enforcement officers executing raids on dispensaries have been a common sight all over San Diego County.

During that time federal agents have seized pot and cash estimated in the tens of millions of dollars money from more than 230 dispensaries.

Most have complied with just a handful of dispensaries still operating. Only 18 are left according to Sherman.

Sherman says people who deliver pot usually have armed guards with them because they are often targetted by robbers which leads to violent confrontations in neighborhoods.

That's one reason why the DEA is getting ready to shut down every mobile dispensary agents can find.

"I'd like to say by summertime, we'd like to have them all closed, that would be our goal," Sherman told NBC 7 San Diego in an exclusive interview.

He said state laws involving marijuana are confusing, and drug dealers are using that to their advantage by selling pot to people who claim to need it for medicinal purposes.

"None of them are caregivers,” he said. “None of them are there for non-profit that's for sure and none of them fit anybody's definition of a collective or cooperative."

“They’re not about going after drug dealers. They’re about shutting down safe access,” said Jessica McElfresh, a San Diego-based medical marijuana collective attorney.

McElfresh cited two key cases, People vs. Colvin and People vs. Jackson, as two examples of the distribution of medicinal marijuana being upheld by the California State Supreme Court.

“What they’ve made clear,” she said referring to the DEA. “That they have no desire to respect state law.

McElfresh said that state law allows for medical marijuana collectives to offer delivery services. She suggests federal agents pick their poison.

“If the DEA is so unhappy with this current model they should have thought about that before they shut down all the dispensaries,” McElfresh said

Sherman won't say exactly when his agents are planning to take down the mobile dispensaries but he did say it will be very soon.

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