Feds put damper on big pot farms

July 2, 2011 at 9:32 AM
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OAKLAND, Calif., July 2 (UPI) -- Plans to build a large marijuana-growing facility in Oakland, Calif., were stymied when the Obama administration clarified its position on the issue.

In a letter to federal prosecutors, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said plans some cities and states have for "multiple, large-scale, privately operated, industrial marijuana cultivation centers" are against the law.

In a Los Angeles Times report, Cole said Obama's hands-off policy on medical marijuana patients was "never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law."

"Unfortunately, this is a step backward," said Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access. "We kind of regard this as kind of the equivalent of 'don't ask, don't tell.' Obama made certain campaign promises, and he's not carrying through on them."

Cole's letter put a damper on one Oakland man's plan to convert 172,000 acres of aging and empty warehouse buildings into a medical marijuana-growing center.

Jeff Wilcox said he commissioned a report concluding his proposal would be worth $59 million annually, and could send up to $3.4 million to city coffers each year.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical cannabis for a wide range of conditions, from back pain to migraine headaches.

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