Bolstered by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that says federal antidrug laws trump state-approved medical marijuana measures, federal officials last week raided three California medical marijuana distributors, USA Today reports. U.S. attorney Kevin Ryan said the organizations operated as fronts for marijuana and ecstasy trafficking and money laundering. The raids were called the first step in busting a major international drug operation.
Federal agents searched homes and businesses in the San Francisco Bay area linked to the three marijuana distributors and seized 9,300 marijuana plants worth more than $5 million. A total of 20 people were indicted on drug charges, and an arrest warrant was issued for another person, according to Ryan.
Although California has a voter-approved medical marijuana law, which allows people with HIV, cancer, and other serious illnesses to use medicinal marijuana, San Francisco police reportedly participated in the raid.
Federal authorities say that they will continue to prosecute anyone who uses, grows, or distributes marijuana, even those in the 10 states that have laws permitting medical marijuana use. "We're empathetic to the ill and to the sick; however, we cannot disregard federal law," federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent Javier Pena told USA Today. "There are some members of the public who think they can disregard the courts and Congress. The DEA will not be among them."