U.S. attorney says California bad marijuana laws lead to ’free for all’

Eastern district head Benjamin Wagner explains that Colorado, Washington faces less fed intervention because laws are better

Weed ‘free-for-all’

Sacramento-based U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner drives a minivan.

This may seem like a strange choice for the region's top federal prosecutor, handpicked by President Barack Obama to be the scourge of financial fraudsters and marijuana growers alike, but Wagner is nothing if not practical.

Defending his office's enforcement of federal marijuana laws during a speaking engagement last week, the Eastern District of California attorney said “loosely described” dispensary operators make up 100 out of every 3,000 indictments in his office. Washington and Colorado, which recently approved recreational use of marijuana, face less federal intervention because their laws are written better, Wagner added, whereas it's a poorly regulated “free-for-all in California.”

A Trinity County man with a large cultivation operation was the most recent to be successfully prosecuted by Wagner's office for marijuana-related crimes. He was sentenced in March to five years in prison.

The office has announced more methamphetamine-related drug cases in recent months.

“The [Drug Enforcement Administration] is one of our biggest customers,” Wagner acknowledged.

Still, his office continues to make the most hay with financial prosecutions. The office collected a record $91 million in civil settlements and fines last year. A civil fraud settlement with Tenet's Redding Medical Center netted $54 million. (Raheem F. Hosseini)