Andre Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, defended the Department of Justice’s decision to crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in the state Sunday, saying that marijuana is being sold for non-medical reasons.
The Los Angeles-based U.S Attorney said that although California voters approved of legalizing medical marijuana in 1996, the initiative is justified due to abuses of the system.
“What we’ve seen, unfortunately, is the Compassionate Use Act has really turned into the Commercial Use Act,” Birotte said on News Conference, a Sunday morning talk show on NBC’s Los Angeles affiliate.
He added that authorities aren’t certain what percentage of the state’s 1 million registered users need marijuana for legitimate medical reasons, dismissing criticism from legislatures that ill people are being adversely affected by the initiative.
Birotte also said that marijuana is a controlled substance and that authorities will go after dispensaries that violate state and federal law.
On October 7, California’s four chief federal prosecutors — Birotte, San Francisco U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, San Diego U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy and Sacramento U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner — announced that they would crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana system.
Federal authorities have demanded back taxes from dispensaries, disqualified them from business expense tax deductions, and ordered landlords to evict dispensaries or else face criminal charges.
Eight medical marijuana dispensaries alone in Lake Forest — a town in the Greater Los Angeles Area — shut their doors last week, according to Prop Zero, a blog about California politics produced by NBC. Landlords who owned the properties had been threatened with asset forfeitures.