San Diego County authorities announced today that they have arrested 23 people, seized $70,000 in cash and shut down 14 marijuana dispensaries that were "operating under the guise of selling marijuana and marijuana-laced products for medicinal purposes."
"Like most San Diegans, I support the use of legitimate and legal medical marijuana use," said San Diego District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis. "However, it appears these so-called marijuana dispensaries are nothing more than for-profit storefront drug dealing operations run by drug dealers hiding behind the state's medical marijuana law."
She said 23 people were arrested as the result of a four-month undercover investigation, involving multiple law enforcement agencies. More arrests are possible, she said.
More than $70,000 in cash and six firearms also were seized, she said.
The 14 dispensaries and six residences that were searched are in San Diego and the surrounding area, she said.
Possible charges include the sale and possession for sale of marijuana, conspiracy and firearms offenses, she said. Those charges carry a maximum of penalty of up to four years in prison.
She said for-profit marijuana dispensaries are not legal according to state law and the State Attorney General's published guidelines. The AG's guidelines on medical marijuana allow non-profit collectives and cooperatives that cultivate marijuana to serve their legitimate patients if they follow rules, which include acquiring marijuana only from their members and reimbursing only reasonable costs like out-of-pocket expenses, she said.
(For a recent Bee story about pot dispensaries, click here.)
"We have not, and will not prosecute people who are legitimately and legally using medical marijuana," Dumanis said. "It's a shame that a few illegal drug dealers are trampling on the compassion shown by voters in passing California's medical marijuana law."
An initial review of the records at one dispensary reveals that more than $700,000 in income was generated in the past six months through the selling of marijuana and marijuana-laced products, she said.
Other law enforcement involved in the operation are the U.S. Attorney's Office for San Diego, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, the San Diego Sheriff's Department, the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego Narcotics Task Force, according to a news release.
Photo below was taken at one of the dispensaries, according to the news release.