Threat of crackdown doesn't stop Calif. pot expo

DALY CITY, Calif. (AP) — The federal government's vow to crack down on marijuana growing and sales operations in California has not stopped an exposition of pot paraphernalia in the San Francisco Bay area, although organizers said some vendors had pulled out.

The three-day West Coast Cannabis Expo, which began Friday, features people selling water pipes, pot containers and grow lights, and other businesses connected to the marijuana industry. It also has an area where medical marijuana users can smoke.

Expo spokeswoman Cheryl Shuman said people in the industry are fearful after federal prosecutors announced Friday that they would crack down on medical pot dispensaries.

Some vendors had pulled out, although the expo was able to find others to take their place, Shuman said.

"Everybody is scared to death," she said.

Landlords leasing property to dozens of warehouses and agricultural parcels where marijuana is being grown and for retail spaces where it is sold are receiving written warnings to evict their tenants or face criminal charges or seizure of their assets, the state's four U.S. attorneys said.

They say the state's law legalizing medical marijuana was intended to allow it to be supplied to seriously ill people on a nonprofit basis. But is has been hijacked by people who are just looking to get rich, they say.

James Slatic, who supplies yellow prescription bottles to medical marijuana dispensaries through his business, PotBottles.com, said he was worried about going bankrupt. He had a booth at the expo.

"I've invested my life savings in my business," said Slatic, 52.

He said he employs five people, has three trucks that deliver the bottles and a 3,000-square-foot warehouse. The uncertainty has already led some of his clients to reduce their orders, he said.

"I meet the patients. I see the patients waste away with cancer," Slatic said. "It's not a joke."

In addition to helping people in need, Slatic said the industry provides thousands of jobs.

Others were more optimistic about what would come of the planned crackdown. Jeff Balsamo, 49, said he uses medical marijuana for spinal arthritis and has been getting it even before it was legal in the state.

Although a crackdown would make it harder to get marijuana, it would not be impossible, Balsamo said.

"In America, you can get anything you want," he said.

Shuman said the federal action could have an unintended consequence.

"I think that this is going to be a call to action," she said. "If you ever valued your rights as a patient or business owner, you need to be here today."

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