DOJ formally launches crackdown on marijuana industry in California

California’s four U.S. attorneys on Friday officially announced a coordinated crackdown on marijuana growing operations, stores and delivery services in the state.

The effort began earlier this week as the U.S. attorneys filed a series of civil forfeiture lawsuits and sent dozens of letters to property holders with marijuana cultivation and distribution businesses operating on them.

The announcement from the Justice Department (DOJ) said the effort is intended to close the businesses' doors.

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The attorneys said they were targeting marijuana businesses in California — the first state to pass a law legalizing the sale and use of medical marijuana — that have used their profits to bolster other illegal operations and that jeopardize the safety and welfare of children by operating near schools or otherwise attempting to entice them to use their products.

“As the number one marijuana producing state in the country, California is exporting not just marijuana but all the serious repercussions that come with it, including significant public safety issues and perhaps irreparable harm to our youth,” said Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, in a statement.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the effort was aimed at enforcing the federal Controlled Substances Act and would not focus its “investigative and prosecutorial resources on individual patients with serious illnesses like cancer or their immediate caregivers.”

“The federal enforcement actions are aimed at commercial marijuana operations, including marijuana grows, marijuana stores and mobile delivery services — all illegal activities that generate huge profits,” said André Birotte Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, where more than 1,000 marijuana stores are operating.

“The marijuana industry is controlled by profiteers who distribute marijuana to generate massive and illegal profits.”

The crackdown is an extension of the Obama administration's increased enforcement of the country's marijuana laws announced earlier this year, and is likely to heighten tensions between the state and federal government.