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Crackdown looming for pot dispensaries.

Byline: Daily News

Within a few weeks, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley will begin more aggressive prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the county, arguing most of them are illegally operating for a profit, he said Thursday.

Cooley's office estimates there are some 900 dispensaries operating in Los Angeles County - concentrated in the city, and particularly in the San Fernando Valley.

"Any medical marijuana dispensary that is selling over the counter for a profit is allegedly violating the law as written," said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office. "And it's our job to enforce the law as written.

"Now if there are collectives or people getting compassionate marijuana in the proper way as outlined in the law, then that is fine. It's the ones that are operating outside the law that are being targeted."

Cooley's office is still preparing for the stepped-up enforcement and held a training session for police officers Thursday. The new enforcement effort was expected to be formally announced in a few weeks.

But Gibbons said the DA's Office has already prosecuted about a dozen dispensaries, including several in the Valley, and several defendants have pleaded guilty.

Aides to Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said he has not changed his position on the issue and no action would be taken against legal collectives.

"Where there is a problem is all these other places that have opened selling marijuana," said Deputy City Attorney David Berger.

An ordinance going before the City Council spells out the requirements, he said.

Berger said it is also a public health issue, with officials showing some marijuana purchased in some of the outlets containing dangerously high levels of insecticide.

Kris Hermes, spokesman for the pro-medical marijuana group Americans For Safe Access, said his organization has seen little evidence that most dispensaries are breaking state law by operating for a profit or knowingly selling to people who are not legitimate patients.

"There are other ways of enforcing alleged violations of state or local law," Hermes said. "We would certainly encourage (the D.A.) not to take aggressive criminal enforcement action against dispensaries and instead use the civil courts to prosecute them if they believe there has been a violation of state law."
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 9, 2009
Words:373
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