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Feds Crack The Whip On California Marijuana Shops

Cue Tom Petty because this could be California's last (legal) dance with Mary Jane.

Federal prosecutors turned up the heat on owners of medical-marijuana dispensaries in California by issuing them a 45-day deadline to shut down their shops or face criminal charges or seizure of assets. The crackdown, announced Friday in Sacramento, Calif., comes 15 years after the Golden State started allowing marijuana as a doctor-prescribed treatment for a variety of illnesses.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner for the Eastern District of California said federal officials will be targeting weed shops closest to schools, parks, sports fields and other places where there are a lot of children and what he termed "significant commercial operations," the AP reports.

Even several property owners have been issued letters stating that federal law trumps state law in this case and ordering them to evict the dispensaries or face criminal charges. As NPR's blog The Two-Way reported, the letters most likely came on the heels of a Department of Justice memo reminding everyone of the federal drug policy in the Controlled Substance Act.

"There are very many patients who don't like the federal government interfering with their medicine," J Street Wellness Manager Ron Mullins told KCRA in Sacramento, Calif., earlier Friday.

Nearly 57,000 Medical Marijuana Program cards have been issued in California.

During President Obama's 2008 campaign, he criticized the Bush administration's practice of raiding marijuana farms that abided by state law. In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. said that federal law enforcement forces would not prioritize raids on medical marijuana facilities.

A few months ago, the Obama administration began whistling a different tune in light of the most recent National Drug Control Strategy report and a Drug Enforcement Administration report.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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