Moral Low Ground


Obama Administration Warns Oakland on Marijuana Farms

The Obama administration warned the city of Oakland over its plans to license large-scale commercial marijuana farms, declaring the scheme to be in violation of state and federal laws. The Justice Department also warned that legal action may be taken against the northern California city.

Oakland City Attorney John Russo received the DOJ message. “The warning is clear: These are illegal, large-scale pot growing operations, with Oakland planning to get a cut of the illicit profits,” one official said.

Oakland’s city council approved a plan to license four industrial facilities to grow and process marijuana for sale to medical dispensaries throughout California, which legalized medical use of the drug in 1996. The plan has the support of the city and of state attorney general (soon to be governor) Jerry Brown.

A failed ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use in last month’s election will have no effect on Oakland’s plan. But the federal government’s heightened interest may very well. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but until now the Obama administration has maintained a hands-off approach towards California’s incompatible law.

Now it looks like that is in danger. Just eight days after the state’s voters defeated the recreational legalization measure, US attorneys met with DEA and DOJ officials to map out a strategy for dealing with California’s massive marijuana industry. Local, state and federal officials may be heading for a collision course that pits Washington’s authority against California’s state rights.

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