California marijuana farm project halted after federal warning

ISLETON, Calif. — Facing threat of criminal prosecution by the federal government, the group planning to build a large medical marijuana farm in Isleton has killed the project.

"It's over," Sacramento attorney William Portanova said of his client's plans to cultivate up to 30,000 square feet of marijuana plants. "As far as this project goes, it's over and will not be revived."

Portanova made his comments Wednesday, two days after his client, Michael Brubeck, received a three-page letter from U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner warning that the plan violates federal law, "even if such activities are permitted under state law."

"Individuals who elect to operate industrial marijuana cultivation facilities will be doing so in violation of federal law," Wagner wrote, adding that such an effort could result in criminal prosecution, asset forfeiture and civil fines.

Portanova, a former federal prosecutor in Sacramento, said his client quickly got the message.

"When the letter was received, we advised they shut it down and get out of town," he said. "So that's the end of it."

The project, which city officials say has cost Brubeck and his Delta Allied Growers group about $700,000 so far, is the focus of a Sacramento County grand jury probe. That investigation broadened this week with a new batch of subpoenas issued in an effort that had been expected to last three days.

Now, witnesses are to be called over the next three weeks as the panel and District Attorney Jan Scully's office investigate allegations of kickbacks to city officials and the financing of the project, which its organizers said was to operate as a nonprofit.

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