Vowing to enforce laws against the sale of marijuana, federal officials said they had raided three Los Angeles pot shops Tuesday and filed legal actions against three others in the LA area.
The U.S. Department of Justice also sent warning letters to 68 marijuana dispensaries, notifying the businesses that their operations were a violation of state and federal law.
The actions were taken against "all known marijuana stores" in Eagle Rock and downtown Los Angeles, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. One store in Huntington Park was also targeted.
U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. warned in a statement that the federal government intended to crack down on "an explosion of commercial marijuana stores" driven by "massive profits."
"As today’s operations make clear, the sale and distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and we intend to enforce the law," Birotte said. "Even those stores not targeted today should understand that they cannot continue to profit in violation of the law.”
The locations that were sent the warning letters are largely in the district of LA City Councilman Jose Huizar, who authored the city's controversial recent "soft ban" on marijuana dispensaries. That ban, approved in July, is on hold pending a potential ballot measure that would overturn it.
Huizar has said Eagle Rock had the highest concentration of pot shops in Los Angeles.
He praised Tuesday's enforcement actions, saying storefront dispensaries are illegal under state law.
"I support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but 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,” Huizar said in an email.
Aided by the LA Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration executed federal search warrants against the following three stores:
- Happy Ending Collective at 818 N. Spring Street, which the DOJ press release said was the largest marijuana store in the downtown LA;
- Green Light Pharmacy at 522 S. Lorena Street in Boyle Heights; and
- Fountain of Wellbeing at 3835 Fountain Avenue in Silver Lake
The department also filed civil asset forfeiture complaints in federal court – alleging violation of state law – against the owners of properties where the following three businesses allegedly operate on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock:
- The Together for Change Collective, which the DOJ said had been targeted by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office and had been raided by LAPD in 2011
- House of Kush, also the subject of a civil abatement action filed by the LA City Attorney’s Office; and
- ER Collective, the subject of a 2010 LAPD raid.
A spokesman said the Department of Justice would not provide a list of the 68 stores that received warning letters telling operators and landlords to "come into compliance" with federal law within 14 days. The 68 figure included the three locations that were raided, he said.
"We are going through our district by selecting geographic areas and then targeting all of the stores in those areas. We chose to do Eagle Rock and downtown," DOJ spokesman Thom Mrozek said in an email. "I anticipate that other areas in the City of Los Angeles will be targeted as we continue with our enforcement efforts."
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck praised the federal actions, saying the stores were "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.”
Federal officials have since October 2011 targeted the "commercial marijuana industry in California." A series of June actions was aimed at stores in 11 other cities in Los Angeles County.