Whether the grower is licensed or not, pot is still a risky business in states that have approved its use for medicinal purposes.
Take California. While the state has had medical marijuana dispensaries for more than 15 years, it remains a target for federal law enforcement officials, where the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested nearly 8,500 people for marijuana-related offensesbetween 2004 and 2010.
California's hardly alone. Several other states with dispensaries have seen an increase in both arrests and the confiscation of marijuana plants. However, a look at DEA records shows what appears to be an uneven enforcement policy among pot-friendly states over the past several years.
For example, while arrests and eradication in California climbed fairly steadily in the seven-year time frame, they remained essentially flat in Maine. Colorado, meanwhile, saw a reversal in both trends halfway through the time period.
Americans for Safe Access, which advocates the legalization of medical marijuana, says the Justice Department has conducted nearly 200 raids on dispensaries and growers since President Barack Obama took office.
"The assault on medical marijuana patients currently under way by the Obama administration is unprecedented in this country's history," said Steph Sherer, the organization's founder and executive director. "The intensity and breadth of the attacks has far surpassed anything we saw under the Bush administration and has resulted in the roll-back of numerous local and state laws, not just in California."
The government's focus on the industry has taken many lawmakers and medical marijuana activists by surprise. During his presidential campaign four years ago, Obama vowed to maintain a hands-off approach toward pot clinics and dispensaries that adhere to state law.
Perhaps not surprisingly, California, which legalized marijuana in 1996 and has long been considered a hub for the pot community, has been the state most targeted by federal officials. In 2004, the DEA made 869 marijuana-related arrests, seizing 1.2 million plants that were cultivated to produce marijuana buds. Both numbers climbed steadily through 2009, according to statistics provided by the DEA, peaking at 1,738 arrests and 7.5 million plants. (In 2010, the numbers slipped slightly to 1,591 arrests and 7.4 million plants.)