Federal Enforcement Action Against Illegal Marijuana Storefronts in Los Angeles County: Warning Letters, Civil Lawsuits

News Release) United States Attorney, Central District of California

Federal Enforcement Actions Against Commercial Marijuana Operations Continue with Warning Letters and Civil Lawsuits Targeting Illegal Storefronts in Los Angeles County

As part of the ongoing federal enforcement actions against the commercial marijuana industry in California, federal authorities this week filed two asset forfeiture lawsuits against properties housing three marijuana stores in Santa Fe Springs and sent warning letters to people associated with another 34 illegal marijuana operations in Los Angeles County.

The warning letters and lawsuits target all known marijuana stores in the communities of Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, South El Monte, La Mirada, Diamond Bar, Artesia, Paramount, South Gate, City of Commerce, Agoura Hills and Malibu.

The two civil asset forfeiture complaints were filed Tuesday in United States District Court in Los Angeles against two properties in Santa Fe Springs where marijuana stores are currently operating. According to the lawsuits, “Under federal law, the distribution of marijuana (a Schedule I controlled substance under Title 21) is prohibited except under very limited circumstances not applicable here. The government is informed and believes that at all times relevant to this complaint, the operation of the marijuana stores on the defendant property was not (and is not) permitted under California law.”

The forfeiture lawsuits allege that the owners of the properties knowingly allowed commercial marijuana stores to operate in Santa Fe Springs. The buildings named in the forfeiture lawsuits house:

• two marijuana stores located on one property on Rosecrans Avenue which have been the subject of cease and desist letters issued by Santa Fe Springs and which appear to involve a landlord as a silent partner; and

• a marijuana store on Telegraph Road that received a cease and desist letter from the city, and which is being operated by a man with a prior conviction in state court for possession of marijuana for sale.

The two marijuana stores at the Rosecrans Avenue location – Tri-City Patient’s Association and the Canna-America Collective (until recently known as the Organic Way Collective) – were the subject of federal search warrants that were executed Wednesday morning.

In conjunction with the filing of the asset forfeiture complaints, letters were mailed out yesterday to the property owners and operators of 34 additional marijuana stores that are either currently operating or were recently closed in selected areas in Los Angeles. The warning letters give the operators and landlords 14 days to come into compliance with federal law or risk potential civil or criminal actions.

This week’s enforcement actions in Los Angeles County follow similar actions in recent months across the seven-county Central District of California. Starting in October 2011, prosecutors began filing asset forfeiture lawsuits and sending letters to marijuana operations in selected areas in the Central District of California
(see, for example: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/056.html.

With the lawsuits filed this week, the United States Attorney’s Office has filed a total of 12 asset forfeiture complaints. Three of those actions have been resolved with the closure of the marijuana stores and court-approved consent decrees in which property owners agreed that they would no longer rent to people associated with illegal marijuana operations or the property would be subject to an immediate forfeiture to the government.

Federal enforcement actions – the asset forfeiture lawsuits and warning letters – have now targeted more than 220 marijuana stores and grows in the Central District of California. The majority of those stores are now closed, are the subject of eviction proceedings by landlords, or have been the subject of additional federal enforcement actions such as search warrants.

In October 2011, the four United States Attorneys in California announced the coordinated enforcement actions targeting illegal marijuana cultivation and trafficking (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2011/144a.html).

The United States Attorney’s Office is working in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration and IRS – Criminal Investigation. the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement services in most of the communities targeted this week, provided substantial assistance to federal authorities.

Release No. 12-074

June 6, 2012

André Birotte Jr.
United States Attorney
Central District of California

Thom Mrozek
Public Affairs Officer
(213) 894-6947

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