Federal officials were mum on Friday about what led them to raid two marijuana dispensaries, one in West Hollywood and another in Westwood, whose staff claimed they were operating within the bounds of California’s medical cannabis laws.
The raids by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration happened Thursday at two dispensaries operated by the same company, known as The Farmacy, said Vijay Rathie, special agent and public information officer for the DEA’s Los Angeles field division.
He said no details were immediately available about why the dispensaries were targeted.
The search warrant that authorized the raids were under seal, and so no details about the nature and scope of the investigation were available, said Thom Mrozek, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California.
Staffers at the dispensaries told reporters that the shops were compliant with state laws but agents nonetheless seized money, marijuana and computers.
No arrests were made, the staffers said.
According to Huffington Post, an agent at the scene who requested anonymity said the raid had to do with how the business was being operated, not simply the fact that it deals in cannabis, which remains illegal under federal law.
“If this was simply about somebody selling marijuana in West Hollywood, the DEA wouldn’t be here,” the agent said.
Bill Kroger, the lawyer for The Farmacy’s owners, denied any wrongdoing on the part of his clients, telling Huffington Post they even helped craft West Hollywood’s ordinance governing medical marijuana dispensaries.
Guidelines for when federal authorities should take enforcement action were laid out in a memo issued last year by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
According to the so-called Cole Memo, the Department of Justice seeks to prevent:
–the distribution of marijuana to minors;
–marijuana sales revenue from reaching criminal enterprises, gangs and
–the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal in some form to those where it is not;
–state-sanctioned marijuana activity to be used as a cover or pretext for trafficking of other illegal drugs or for other illegal activity;
–violence and firearms use in marijuana cultivation and distribution;
–drugged driving and other adverse public health effects;
–growing of marijuana on public lands; and
–marijuana possession or use on federal property.
“These priorities will continue to guide the Department’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act against marijuana-related conduct,” according to the memo. “Thus, this memorandum serves as guidance to Department attorneys and law enforcement to focus their enforcement resources and efforts, including prosecution, on persons or organizations whose conduct interferes with any one or more of these priorities, regardless of state law.”
Just last week Cole said California needs to tighten medical marijuana regulations to avoid federal enforcement actions.