Posted by Mike Liszewski
There are many who suffer the “collateral damage” of the war on safe access to medical cannabis. Patients who must suffer or break the law to obtain medicine, as well as their loved ones and providers are some of the more well known victims in this federal assault. However, the overzealous actions of US Attorneys at the Department of Justice (DOJ) have brought to light another group suffering from our utterly nonsensical federal medical cannabis policy – the landlords who lease property to dispensaries.
On Thursday, Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced HR 6335 (text), the the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act. The bill would stop the seizure of property from landlords of state law-compliant medical marijuana businesses, and was introduced less than a month after US Attorney Melinda Haag began forfeiture proceedings against the landlords of Harborside, the well-known dispensary who’s Oakland location is in Lee’s district.
Facing Peril Unforeseeable Based on Prior Federal Rhetoric
Landlords in states with medical cannabis laws have every reason to believe and expect that when a business presents them with a legitimate business license issued by the state and/or local municipality, that such a business is not breaking any laws merely for existing. In fact, based upon President Obama’s instance that he was no longer going after medical cannabis patients and that we no longer have a “war” on drugs, it’s perfectly understandable that the average person would not think twice about leasing such a property to medical cannabis dispensary.
Not only do these landlords have every right to expect that these businesses are OK to lease to, the cost to the landlord to get such a property ready to lease to another customer can be quite expensive. Furthermore, in a time when commercial property owners have a hard enough time finding any tenants, these landlords have made business decisions based on the presumed reliable income that dispensary-tenants provide. When you consider that each crime study regarding dispensary neighborhoods indicates that these facilities are assets rather than liabilities to the community, the wisdom of the DOJ forfeitures is questionable at best.
US Attorneys Running Roughshod Over Justice
Speaking of US Attorneys and “questionable” legal thoughts, check out US Attorney Melinda Haag’s bizarre and unhinged rational for issuing forfeiture proceedings against Harborside. If sheer size and number of retail sales for things within the Controlled Substances Act was sufficient basis for forfeiture at Harborside, why isn’t every CVS, Rite Aide and Walgreens of similar size to Harborside being raided as well. Based on their size, something illegal must be afoot! (Maybe US Attorny Duffy will take up that charge…)
Civil asset forfeiture is a rather extreme government tactic which some have noted treads dangerously close to offending at least four US Constitutional Amendments, the 4th, 5th, 8th, and 14th. It forces property owners to prove their innocence rather than have the government prove guilt. Property owners have no right to an attorney or a jury trial in these proceedings. Many have said civil forfeiture should be done away with all together, but if it is to exist, the government must be judicious in its application.
Lee’s HR 6335 Would End this Tactic Against Safe Access
Americans for Safe Access thanks Congresswoman Lee and the cosponsors of HR 6335 for protecting the property rights of land owners who rent to state-approved and law abiding medical cannabis dispensaries. Contact your Representative today and urge them to cosponsor this much-needed safe access legislation.