Despite the federal government's crackdown on California's medical marijuana industry, top Justice Department officials including Attorney General Eric Holder have repeatedly stated that raiding dispensaries is not their “top priority” and that they are more interested in going after “organized crime” and “large-scale traffickers.”
On July 28, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte, Jr, who represents the Central District of California, repeated that claim in a television interview. “We have been consistent as it relates to targeting those dispensaries that we think violate not only federal but state law as well,” he insisted.
Internal U.S. Attorney's office emails obtained by the Weekly, however, reveal what already seems obvious: the Obama administration's real plan is to completely eradicate all marijuana dispensaries in California–regardless of whether the targeted cannabis collectives are complying with state law.
In one email, Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Parham–the same prosecutor who is threatening to seize a $1.5 million building in Anaheim from a computer engineer and his dentist wife over a $37 pot sale–bragged about his office's zeal in eradicating all dispensaries.
“My old pal, Jay Williams, called me again this afternoon,” Parham wrote in an Aug. 28, 2012 email. “As you probably recall, Williams is the potential operator for the MJ store that was due to open at the above location [in Anaheim]. Williams told me that he had talked with a couple of lawyers and they told him that if he followed the letter of the law '110%' then he had nothing to worry about. I told Williams that the lawyers lied to him and completely disregarded Federal law. Williams was again advised that we are enforcing Federal law in this district and that all stores in our jurisdiction will be shut down.”
According to Parham, William asked whether he could relocate to either Garden Grove or Santa Ana. “I made it clear that there was not a city in the area that he could safely move to,” Parham wrote. “Keep your eyes open for Mr. Williams (if that is his true name). It seems like he is really conflicted about staying in the game.”
In a June 13, 2013 email, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kowal took delight in the California Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year that upheld the right of cities to ban dispensaries. “The Cal SCT decision has really had a positive impact,” Kowal wrote. “In addition to closing the final stores in Anaheim, I just spoke to Garden Grove and they inform that they were able to shut down 50+ stores in a few weeks and are down to 0. Still some in Santa Ana and a handful of other stragglers, but SA [Special Agent] Mertus will see to that soon enough.”
Some of the most recent emails obtained by the Weekly show that federal prosecutors viewed as cause for celebration complaints from landlords and collectives who worried about sick people not being able to get access to their medicine. In a May 28, 2013 email, Parham revels in the news that a landlord, whose surname is Kinney had authorized eviction of a marijuana collective. “Kinney talked to the tenant today and he said he felt terrible for all the sick people who were unable to get their medicine,” Parham wrote.
In a separate email sent to Parham just five minutes earlier, one of Parham's colleagues, Sandra Sagert, expressed glee over the eviction. “[H]opefully we can resolve soon so we can celebrate!,” Sagert wrote. “Has been a little over a year since we started….:)”