Feds Lose in Court to CA’s Oldest Marijuana Dispensary


Feds Lose in Court to CA’s Oldest Marijuana Dispensary

A federal judge has sided with our buds the Berkeley Patients Group. California’s oldest medical marijuana dispensary will continue to operate while the court considers pending litigation—U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s attempt to shut it down.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome of this particular ruling, and we’re very eager to continue serving our patients in the Berkeley area,” Victor Pinhoe, BPG’s director of marketing, told The Huffington Post about the order. “This should be viewed as a small victory in a larger fight to secure safe access to medical cannabis for anyone who needs it in California and across the country.”

Haag first tried to close BPG in 2011. She and her cronies began an anti-medical marijuana rampage sending threatening letters to owners of buildings housing dispensaries throughout CA stating federal prosecutors would file a forfeiture action if marijuana continued to be distributed at these locations—meaning if they didn’t evict their tenants the government would steal their property.

Oakland, CA is also fighting to keep a marijuana dispensary alive . The Harborside Health Center—one of the nation’s leading medical marijuana venues is also facing forfeiture actions. On Friday, according to the East Bay Express Judge Tigar explicitly referred to Oakland’s efforts to save Harborside, noting that Oakland had already prevailed in a similar motion to stay the forfeiture of Harborside, pending the outcome of its efforts to appeal its legal standing in the Harborside case. Both historic cases that raise “novel” legal questions, Tigar wrote, as both cities are appealing for their rights to defend their licensed dispensaries.

98049974_marijuana_slideshowThe threat-filled letter Haag originally sent to the BPG cited assorted federal law violations and pointed out that BPG’s location was within 1,000 feet of two schools. However Jill Ellis, the executive director of one of the schools, The Center for Early Intervention on Deafness, supported the  dispensary. She told California Watch: “They really have been caring, supportive neighbors, concerned neighbors, clearly very interested in our mission, our families. Their security provides a great asset and enhancement to our community. We’ve never had any incidents at all.”

BPG closed briefly as a result and reopened down the street in late 2012. But Haag continued the fight, moving to seize BPG’s property in 2013 on the grounds that the product it sells remains illegal on a federal level. This time however the property owner and the City of Berkeley sued to block the forfeiture.

Last fall a judge ruled that the city didn’t have enough skin in the game to fight on BPG’s behalf. Berkeley appealed and during Friday’s hearing prosecutors argued against the stay in favor of seizing BPG, but Judge Jon S. Tigar rejected their arguments, writing that higher courts could still rule the City of Berkeley has standing and that “district courts should recognize the public interest reflected in a properly enacted local ordinance.”

The case will remain on hold until the Ninth Circuit decides whether Berkeley has standing. However it’s anybody’s guess why Attorney Hagg continues her anti-medical marijuana crusade defying orders from the White House as well as Congressional action defunding the DOJ’s counter-cannabis programs.

“We’re still surprised given the recent change in the climate surrounding medical cannabis in California that the attorney is being relentless in her fight,” said Victor Pinho, for BPG reports the Bay Area’s Smell the Truth blog. “We are emboldened by this judgement and we reaffirm our commitment to our patients and reaffirm our commitment to fighting the good cause of making sure every one who needs access has proper access.”

“We are hopeful that Congress will act quickly to resolve the split between state and Federal marijuana laws by passing bills like Congresswoman Lee’s proposed H.R. 262″ said Tim Schick, Berkeley Patients Group’s Executive Director, referencing the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act introduced on January 9. “In the meantime,” he added, “we look forward to continuing to serve our local patient population.”

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