A federal search warrant was served last week at the Pacific Collective medical marijuana dispensary in Venice in the latest move by the federal government targeting pot distributors.
No one answered the door Monday afternoon at Pacific Collective, 905 Pacific Avenue, and a sign said they were closed. A telephone call to the dispensary also was not answered.
The search warrant was served July 11 and the warrant remained under seal, so no additional information was available, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, on Monday.
It was the first sign of federal action in the Venice area since federal authorities in October 2011 put the commercial marijuana industry on notice. California's four U.S. Attorneys announced that enforcement actions, property forfeiture lawsuits and warning letters to landlords had been issued. Six people linked to a now-defunct North Hollywood marijuana store, NoHo Caregivers, were charged last fall with drug trafficking and forfeiture lawsuits in Wildomar, Montclair and Lake Forest were filed against landlords who knowingly allowed marijuana stores to operate on their property.
The crackdown continued in January with the feds announcing four asset forfeiture lawsuits in south Orange County and unincorporated Covina and warning letters being sent to property owners and operators associated with marijuana stores in unincorporated Walnut, La Puente, Murrieta and Lake Elsinore, where 17 pot stores were told they were violating in operation of federal law.
In June, federal authorities filed two asset forfeiture lawsuits against properties housing three pot shops in Santa Fe Springs and sent warning letters to 34 people associated with allegedly illegal marijuana operations in Los Angeles County. The warning letters targeted known marijuana stores in Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, South El Monte, La Mirada, Diamond Bar, Artesia, Paramount, South Gate, City of Commerce, Agoura Hills and Malibu.
The most well-known pot dispensary in the state, Harborside Health Center in Oakland, was served with a forfeiture lawsuit earlier this month by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. The Harborside Health Center is the largest dispensary in the country and was the subject of the Discovery Channel's "Weed Wars."
The federal enforcement also forced the closing late last year of Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax, CA, which was operated by medical marijuana pioneer Lynette M. Shaw, the first person to open a licensed medical marijuana dispensary in the United States.
Opponents of the federal enforcement action say it goes against a 2009 U.S. Department of Justice guidance memo. The memo said that federal resources as a "general matter" should not be focused on "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."
Federal authorities when they announced the crackdown last October said that California's marijuana industry had swelled to include numerous drug-trafficking enterprises in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act that prohibits the sale and distribution of marijuana. U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. at the time said that for-profit, commercial marijuana operators were illegal under both federal and California law.
The recent enforcement actions throughout California have riled some medical marijuana advocates who believe President Barack Obama has backtracked on a campaign pledge. In August 2007, then-candidate Obama at a campaign event in New Hampshire said the following: "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It's not a good use of our resources."
Medical marijuana advocates plan to protest July 23 when Obama visits Oakland in a rally organized by Harborside Health Center and Americans for Safe Access.
Pacific Collective had a medical marijuana strain called "Obama OG" reviewed in a YouTube video, as well as another strain called "Purple Bubba."