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DEA letter targets medical marijuana

By: Roger Phelps
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A threat from federal drug officials is forcing El Dorado County’s medical-marijuana clinic to lease a new headquarters. The Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County previously leased from a landlord who received written notice recently from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The notice said the agency had discovered the lease agreement between the caregivers association and the landlord, and warned the arrangement violated federal drug law. Matt Vaughn, director of the local caregiver association, said budget matters are forcing a move at the same time the DEA letter is, so it could be worse. “The consequences are minimal for us, but in general, if they did get a DEA letter, it’s going to cost a landlord a good renter,” Vaughn said. In 2007, the agency began warning landlords, all of them in southern California. “The goal is advice,” said Special Agent Sarah Pullen. “The Los Angeles field office sent out nearly 200 letters.” In bold-face type, the letters warned landlords that California’s 10-year-old Compassionate Use Act legalizing use of medical pot did not protect them from federal law criminalizing the providing of space for distributing any drug named on the federal Controlled Substances List. “Violation of this law is a felony crime, and carries with it a penalty of up to 20 years in prison,” the letters said. “In addition, federal law allows for the seizure of assets, including real property, which have been used in conjunction with the distribution of controlled substances.” Soon, the notice program expanded to northern California. “The DEA San Francisco Office sent out approximately 50 letters to property owners,” said Special Agent Casey McEnry.. The DEA does not recognize California’s voter-approved legalization of medical marijuana. Pullen said the DEA is out to shut down all California med-pot dispensaries by any legal means necessary. “There are hundreds of them in L.A.,” she said. “Our resources are limited. We use them as we can.” She declined to provide a cost estimate for the letter-writing program. The Telegraph’s Roger Phelps can be reached at rogerp@goldcountrymedia.com, or post a comment at folsomtelegraph.com