Feds Crack Down on Dozens of Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, Threaten Others

The Los Angeles medical marijuana industry is under attack again, just days after thwarting a bid by city officials to enforce a ban on dispensaries.

The federal government teamed up with local authorities today to target 71 cannabis centers in the Los Angeles area, ordering dozens to close, raiding three dispensaries and filing civil forfeiture lawsuits against a handful of others. Authorities also threatened other dispensaries in LA, with the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California saying that “even those stores not targeted today should understand that they cannot continue to profit in violation of the law.”

It’s an ominous sign for the LA medical marijuana community, as there’s little dispensaries can do to prevent or respond to such actions. The federal government could theoretically use these methods to shut down most dispensaries in Los Angeles, even without an official ban by the city. It has used this mix of warning letters, raids and forfeiture suits to effectively close hundreds of dispensaries in several medical marijuana states.

The move in LA also further clouds and complicates the situation in one of the nation’s largest medical cannabis markets. A ban on dispensaries was set to go into effect earlier this month. But the MMJ community rallied, gathering enough signatures to delay the ban, buy some time for dispensaries and force a referendum on the issue. Many of the city’s estimated 500-1,000 dispensaries breathed a sigh of relief, hoping to continue with business as usual for the coming months.

Local officials, however, warned that they would still attempt to shut down dispensaries, and the federal action today confirms that no cannabis center in the city is safe even without an official ban.