Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune

Medical marijuana advocates on Thursday sued U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Northern California's top federal prosecutor, asking a federal court to halt the recent crackdown on dispensaries.

Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access argued that the Justice Department has "instituted a policy to dismantle the medical marijuana laws of the state of California and to coerce its municipalities to pass bans on medical marijuana dispensaries" by means of aggressive raids, criminal prosecutions of medical marijuana patients and providers, and threats to local officials who implement the state's law.

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford said that although the Obama administration is entitled to enforce medical marijuana laws, the 10th Amendment forbids it from using coercive tactics to hijack the state's lawmaking functions. "This case is aimed at restoring California's sovereign and constitutional right to establish its own public health laws based on this country's federalist principles," he said.

California's four U.S. attorneys -- including the Northern District's Melinda Haag, who is named as a defendant in this lawsuit -- this month announced a multipronged crackdown on dispensaries across the state. They said they'd be focusing mostly on for-profit, retail-style, large operations that are not protected by state law, but marijuana advocates in recent weeks have said several law-abiding, locally regulated dispensaries have been targeted nonetheless.