Feds Warn Oakland: Industrial Marijuana Farms Are Illegal


Photo: Adrian Rushton/Colchester Gazette

​There was some more ominous saber-rattling from federal drug warriors Wednesday as a U.S. Attorney strongly warned Oakland that big industrial marijuana farms are illegal, and that the Department of Justice is considering “civil and criminal legal remedies” if the city goes ahead with its plans to permit them.

In a letter [PDF] obtained by The Bay CitizenU.S. Attorney Melinda Haag warned that the DOJ is “concerned” about Oakland’s “licensing scheme that permits large-scale industrial marijuana cultivation and manufacturing as it authorizes conduct contrary to federal law and threatens the federal government’s efforts to regulate the possession, manufacturing, and trafficking of controlled substances.”
The central point of Haag’s letter was clear: Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Photo: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag: “Individuals who elect to operate ‘industrial cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facilities’ will be doing so in violation of federal law”

​”Individuals who elect to operate ‘industrial cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facilities’ will be doing so in violation of federal law,” Haag wrote.
The owners, financiers and landlords would all be pursued by the DEA, according to Haag.
“Potential actions the Department is considering include injunctive actions to prevent cultiation and distribution of marijuana and other associated violations of the [federal Controlled Substances Act]; civil fines; criminal prosecution; and forfeiture of any property used to facilitate violations of the CSA.”
Oakland officials, after having already been warned that their first plan was illegal, have been busy rewriting the pot farm plans to address legal concerns.
Oakland City Attorney John Russo warned the City Council that the feds had raised concerns with him, but this letter is the first written communication between the DOJ and the city of Oakland on the matter, reports Zusha Elinson of The Bay Citizen.
The letter, dated February 1 and received by the city on Wednesday, is in response to a January 14 letter from Russo asking for federal guidance on Oakland’s pot farm plan.

Photo: City of Oakland
Oakland City Council member Desley Brooks wrote the new version of the city’s plan for a pot farm

​Oakland City Council member Desley Brooks said in response to Haag’s letter than she believes the U.S. Attorney is referring to the old version of the pot farm legislation, which the Council scrapped back in December.
“It appears that the letter is referencing the old ordinance and that they haven’t looked at the latest version of the ordinance,” Brooks said.
Brooks wrote the new version, which was discussed Tuesday night at a City Council meeting. It would require that pot farms be owned by medical marijuana dispensaries to address concerns that the huge, independent growing operations would violate state laws requiring medicinal cannabis to be grown and sold by nonprofit collectives of patients and caregivers.
The farms would also be limited to 50,000 square feet each under the new plan.
“There was no doubt that after looking closely at the first draft that there were some issues with it,” Brooks said. “They were stand-alone operations which had no relationship to a patient.”
The new draft has specific language establishing a ‘closed-loop’ relationship between cultivators and distributors — which would keep the marijuana only in the hands of patients — as well as making the patient relationships more explicit, reports Sean Maher at The Oakland Tribune.
Haag pointed out in her letter that the DOJ would not be focusing its resources on prosecuting medical marijuana patients. But, she indicated, “unlawful manufacturing and distribution” is another story.
“The City Attorney wrote to the U.S. Attorney’s office at the direction of the City Council,” City Attorney Russo said Wednesday. “The Council directed this office to get specificity about the concerns of federal officials and this letter is the result.”