California Here We Come!

by GREGORY D. LEE January 24, 2018

California residents celebrated New Year's with the state legalizing "recreational marijuana." State and local politicians were thinking of ways to spend the enhanced tax revenue they will receive. Thousands of Marijuana shop business license applications were submitted for approval. Everything will now be wonderful. People will start being nice to each other again, the sun will shine, and everything will be groovy. What could go wrong?

Before you could say, "contact high," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he was revoking an Obama era Department of Justice Memo that instructed its U.S. Attorneys to not enforce federal marijuana laws in those states that had legalized the drug for medicinal use. Ah, bummer, dude.

Not only has California defied the federal government by declaring itself a "Sanctuary State" for illegal aliens, now it's legalizing recreational marijuana! I can hear AG Sessions at a staff meeting declaring, "California, here we come."

For anyone considering investing in or opening a recreational marijuana business, I have a question: Ever hear of federal civil and criminal forfeiture laws? If AG Sessions proceeds with unleashing DEA in states that legalized the cultivation, possession, sale, and use of marijuana, it could be a rapid end to this budding enterprise (pun intended).

All real property, proceeds, equipment, vehicles, cash, and other assets gained from marijuana sales or used to facilitate marijuana dispensaries are subject to civil or criminal forfeiture. If the government can show that the owner of a building knew he was renting it to a marijuana business, the building would be subject to forfeiture. Think that might deter a landlord from leasing his building to a pot business? Obviously, if a weed business owner buys his own building, it would be subject to forfeiture also. The rush to purchase otherwise useless land for the thousands of marijuana "farms" cropping up in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado and other states is also subject to forfeiture. I will go so far as to say that any tax money received by state and local governments is also subject to civil forfeiture, including anything purchased with the tax money. Need a slightly used fire engine?

State and local governments need to sober up and face reality. It is still a federal crime to grow, possess, and distribute Marijuana, a Schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substance Act. They need to realize that any additional money in taxes they receive could easily be spent on drug rehabilitation programs, increased fatal drugged driving collisions, industrial accidents, civil litigation and the like.

Know what a conspiracy is? It's when two or more people agree to commit a crime, like selling marijuana. It doesn't matter what someone's role in the conspiracy was, the fact you're involved makes you liable for the future crimes of all the other members of the conspiracy the moment you join it. Anyone who tends a marijuana farm, drives the weed to the dispensaries, fills the shelves with jars of marijuana, waits on customers, sweeps the floor, makes cash bank deposits or does anything else to facilitate the sale of marijuana is guilty of conspiracy in addition to the actual possession and sale of marijuana. A city official who issues a marijuana dispensary business license could also fall in that category.

Is this farfetched? AG Sessions has expressed lots of anti-marijuana sentiments. He's irritated at California for not cooperating with federal immigration officials. He has a law and order president who wants to end the opioid epidemic and probably believes that marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin use.

So, is now the time to invest in the lucrative marijuana business in California and elsewhere? I don't think so.

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Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Gregory D. Lee is a retired Supervisory Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the author of three criminal justice textbooks. While on DEA diplomatic assignment in Pakistan, he was involved in the investigation of several notable terrorism events and arrests. He recently retired after more than 39 years of active and reserve service from the U.S. Army Reserve as a Chief Warrant Officer Five Special Agent for the Criminal Investigation Division Command, better known as CID. In 2011 he completed a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan while on special assignment to the Special Operations Command Europe. Visit his website at and contact him at

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