California Medical Cannabis Compliance Lawyer Recommends Collectives and Dispensaries Get Compliance Checks to Address Recent Federal Concerns

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A memo from the US Attorneys’ office explaining guidelines for prosecution of California medical marijuana cases was recently leaked online. Medical marijuana attorney Chris Van Hook recommends dispensaries and private collectives undergo a compliance check by a qualified attorney to ensure they do not have any of the red flags that would put their business at greater risk of being targeted for closure.

Until the cannabis industry is regulated like other agricultural/food crops and products, suppliers must be extra careful

The four US Attorney’s offices in California have recently ratcheted up federal pressure and scrutiny of the state’s medical marijuana industry. They have issued letters to growers, dispensaries and landlords renting to these operations, threatening to prosecute them under federal law, regardless of their standing in state law. Many people in the industry found the closures arbitrary, but a recently leaked internal memo from the US Attorneys’ office regarding marijuana enforcement reveals several factors that may trigger prosecution. California medical cannabis compliance lawyer Chris Van Hook, founder of the Clean Green Certified medical marijuana inspection program, says dispensaries or private collectives that want to avoid being flagged by the US Attorneys should get a compliance check by a qualified attorney to eliminate any business practices that may put them at greater risk of prosecution.

Van Hook points out there are some understandable reasons for the federal government’s crackdown, as the current state of California law has led to abuse. Criminal activities are taking advantage of the confusion in the current state of California law. National land intended for the benefit of all Americans is too often used by cartels and illegal growers. Guns, kidnappings, assault and environmental degradation are all too often the norm for these operations. The US Attorneys’ memo particularly focuses on these criminal organizations, and the dispensaries that do business with them, as triggers for federal enforcement.

The memo recommends targeting dispensaries that a) sell large amounts of marijuana (200 kg+ per year), b) perform sales that clearly violate state law, and c) exhibit additional factors of interest to prosecutors including links to criminal growers/distributors, provable links to gangs, financial crimes such as money laundering or tax evasion, service to minors, etc.

“Reputable medical cannabis growers would do well to mind these guidelines. With the increased scrutiny of the medical marijuana industry by the federal government, it is a good idea to take the time to review your own particular compliance program to make sure you are not engaging in activities or partnerships that may draw federal attention,” suggests Van Hook.

The California medical cannabis compliance lawyer recommends beginning a medical cannabis compliance review by identifying and working with a qualified California attorney familiar with the California state laws on medical cannabis production and distribution.

“By starting with a qualified California attorney, you can be more confident that you are receiving up-to-date information and proper legal advice. Beware of the many non-attorneys who advertize as being able to assist in the formation of collectives, legal binders, or compliance consultation. Make no mistake; this information is legal in nature with grave consequences if not set up and operated properly,” he warns.

He continues, “Your attorney should examine your entire operation. Together you should walk through every step of the business while identifying areas of concern and developing specific steps to take to improve compliance.”

In addition to legal compliance, Van Hook says it’s essential that dispensaries ensure they are providing the safest medical cannabis possible. They need to ensure the medicine is grown in compliance with state law and free of harmful contaminants. This can best be done by carrying medicine certified by a qualified third-party certification company.

“Here, again, the unregulated nature of the cannabis industry has allowed for a wide range of people to advertise themselves as a certification service. Time spent asking a couple of questions will go a long way in assuring that you are actually working with a qualified company,” Van Hook says.

Van Hook recommends asking the following questions:

1.    What are the inspector’s qualifications? An inspector should have a bachelor’s degree in agriculture or a related subject as well as at least five years working in field compliance. Ask to see resumes, do some research into the company yourself.
2.    Does the staff have sufficient expertise? The company should have staff capable of conducting OMRI-level input reviews to be able to review the inputs used and to make recommendations.
3.    Is the certifier well-versed in California medical marijuana standards? The certification company should be run under the direction of a qualified California attorney familiar with medical cannabis compliance law. Working with an attorney is the best way to assure that your communication is kept confidential and that all aspects of the relationship are handled in an appropriate manner.

“Until the cannabis industry is regulated like other agricultural/food crops and products, suppliers must be extra careful,” says Van Hook. “There are a number of unlicensed labs, consultants, and opportunists out in the marketplace. Ask for resumes and verifiable experience. Work with a qualified attorney. Stay abreast of the changing laws and interpretations. But most of all, continue refining and developing your own compliance program.”

About Clean Green Certified
Clean Green Certified, an independent third-party medical cannabis certification program created by attorney Chris Van Hook, is an agricultural process review and certification program based on the non-use of synthetic chemical fertilizers and sprays, and the building of consumer confidence that their agricultural products are produced in manner that is both healthy and safe for the environment. Their California medical marijuana quality control programs also include Best Practices certification, which allows the limited and responsible use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, and compliance with Mendocino County Code 9.31 (the medical cannabis cultivation regulation ordinance).

Clean Green’s expert legal team also provides services that include: medical cannabis expert witness testimony; on-site inspections; medical cannabis compliance for growers and for handlers/processors/dispensaries; formation of grower collectives and nonprofit corporations; commercial leases; product licensing; contracts and real property issues; administrative law; and permit assistance and acquisition.

For more information about the Clean Green Certified program, call Chris Van Hook at (707) 218-6979 or visit


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Chris Van Hook
Clean Green Certified
(707) 215-4009
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