Several medical marijuana dispensaries in Santa Barbara closed their doors Sept. 19 in response to pressure by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Dispensaries are allowed in certain circumstances under California law to provide marijuana to patients with a doctor’s recommendation, but the federal government considers them to be in conflict with federal laws restricting drug trafficking. According to a DEA representative, several letters were sent out to property owners in late July informing them of ongoing illegal activity on their properties—specifically, the selling of marijuana. They further threatened to seize the properties if the dispensaries were not closed by Sept. 19.
Santa Barbara is one of several California cities to pass an ordinance allowing marijuana dispensaries. The city’s attorney was not available for comment.
Threatening landlords with property seizure has become a common tactic for closing dispensary doors throughout California, according to DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullin. She said more than 200 such letters were sent in July in the federal district that includes Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. She could not say how many landlords complied.
New Times called five Santa Barbara dispensaries for statements, but none answered. One number had been disconnected. A representative for the Santa Barbara chapter of NORML, the national group that lobbies for the legalization of marijuana—medical or otherwise—confirmed that all of the area’s dispensaries have closed their doors in response to the letters. When asked where patients would get marijuana, he said “probably anywhere they can.”
Following the closure of Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers, the medical marijuana dispensary formerly located in Morro Bay, many patients reported driving to Santa Barbara to get their prescriptions filled.