Feds Hit LA In Medical Marijuana Crackdown

LOS ANGELES — Federal prosecutors looking to take out California’s medical marijuana shops have now set their sights on Los Angeles, where city officials have struggled to stop a blooming of dispensaries.

The U.S. attorney’s office sued three property owners that house pot collectives and sent warning letters to 68 others as they enforce a federal law that doesn’t recognize a California initiative that legalized pot for medicinal use.

The move Tuesday came nearly a year after federal authorities began targeting the state’s pot shops. The city’s own ban on dispensaries also is being challenged and could be overturned by voters if a referendum is placed on an upcoming ballot.

“As today’s operations make clear, the sale and distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and we intend to enforce the law,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.

California’s four U.S. attorneys pledged last October to curb pot collectives they said were running afoul of the law by raking in huge sums of money and serving as fronts for drug traffickers. Proponents argue the dispensaries are protected by California law that allows medicinal use of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

David Welch, an attorney representing some of the Los Angeles collectives targeted by federal authorities, said he plans to file a lawsuit.

“I expected this to happen and we have planned for this contingency,” Welch said. “The future is a lot less certain considering what seems to be a full press by the federal government.”

Los Angeles passed an ordinance two years ago that was supposed to shutter hundreds of pot dispensaries while capping the number in operation at 70.

But a set of legal challenges against the city by collectives and the recent expiration of the ordinance due to a sundowner clause led to another surge of pot shops. City officials said more than 750 collectives have registered with the city and as many as 200 more could exist.

City officials have had a difficult time striking a balance between providing safe and affordable access to pot for people who need it for medicinal purposes while addressing neighborhood groups’ worries that streets were being overrun by dispensaries and pot users.

“The shops had an opportunity to work with the city on a path to legitimacy, but once again they chose short-term profits over long-term safe access for legitimate patients,” said Michael Larsen, president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council.

More than 175 California cities and 20 counties have banned retail pot shops, according to the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.

The state Supreme Court is expected to address whether local governments can ban medical marijuana clinics, but a hearing hasn’t been set by the high court.

Los Angeles could soon face a possible referendum on the latest ban approved by the city council. Council members must decide by next week whether to call a special election for the measure, repeal it themselves or put it on the March 2013 ballot.

 

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China detains almost 2,000 in fake drug sweep

China detains almost 2,000 in fake drug sweep

 

Chinese police have detained almost 2,000 people in a nationwide sweep on fake drugs, seizing more than $180 million worth of counterfeit products and destroying some 1,100 production facilities, the public security ministry said on Sunday.

The operation, involving around 18,000 police officers, discovered fake or adulterated drugs purporting to deal with illnesses ranging from diabetes to high blood pressure and rabies, the ministry said in a statement.

The suspects went so far as to advertise their drugs online, in newspapers and on television, and the drugs caused problems ranging from liver and kidney damage to heart failure, it added.

The government has repeatedly promised to tighten regulatory systems after safety scandals involving fish, drugs, toys, toothpaste, children’s clothes, tires, drugs and milk fortified with melamine, used in the manufacture of tabletops.

But little has been done apart from a few, highly publicized arrests. Tackling the issue has not been helped by China’s confused and still developing regulatory environment, corruption and the high profits counterfeiters can rake in.

Earlier this year, Chinese consumers recoiled at stories of drug capsules tainted with chromium, long-term exposure to which can cause serious organ damage.

While it hailed the success of the latest raids, the ministry warned it was too soon to be able to rest on their laurels.

“The crime of making fake drugs is still far from eradicated, and criminals are coming up with new schemes, becoming craftier and better able to deceive,” it said.

The ministry called on consumers to only use above board pharmacies and hospitals and not “easily believe advertisements.”

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