Topic: Lovelace, U.S. attorney discuss medical pot
Lovelace, U.S. attorney discuss medical pot
Crackdown is “incredible disrespect,” says Lovelace
Pressure from California Northern District U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has led to the closure of an Arcata medical marijuana dispensary, changes in Arcata’s landmark medical marijuana ordinance and a swirl of fear in Humboldt County’s medical marijuana community.
As a result, Humboldt County 3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace met with Haag on Thursday afternoon to express his disappointment with the recent federal crackdown. In an interview with the Times-Standard on Friday, Lovelace said the U.S. attorney’s actions “showed incredible disrespect for local governments.”
Lovelace said his meeting with Haag, which Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos helped set up, was about involving local governments. Up until now, Lovelace said, the burden has been on local governments to decide what is acceptable and what is not.
The federal government was “pretty much absent from this issue,” Lovelace said. “Now that they’ve decided to get involved, they didn’t bother to pick up the phones and call local jurisdictions. It was not the way to build a partnership.”
Lovelace said he tried to impress upon Haag that local governments dictate what is agreeable to the community and what is appropriate safe access to medical marijuana, which is legal in California.
“We’ve gone through that process, which has been ignored by the federal government,” Lovelace said U.S. attorneys caused a stir last year when they sent stern letters to cities across the state — including Eureka — warning that elected and public officials could face legal action for enacting and enforcing medical marijuana ordinances. Eureka received its letter in August warning that its ordinance — which allowed for the permitting of four medical marijuana dispensaries — ran afoul of federal law.
The letter — written by Haag — said the department was concerned about Eureka’s “creation of a licensing scheme that permits largescale industrial marijuana cultivation, processing and distribution.” The letter went on to warn that if Eureka were to proceed with licensing dispensaries under the ordinance, the U.S. Attorney’s Office would consider taking action, including pursuing injunctions, fines, criminal prosecutions and forfeitures.
Eureka has since declared a moratorium on the permitting of dispensaries.
Humboldt County has not received a letter from Haag nor had an official meeting with her, but the county also passed a moratorium on dispensary permitting due to federal pressures and a shifting legal landscape in the state.
Arcata city officials recently had a sit-down meeting with Haag, and last week the city council directed staff to draft a moratorium on issuing licenses to dispensaries.
Landlords of two of Arcata’s four dispensaries reportedly received letters from the U.S. attorney last month stating that they were in violation of federal law and had a short time to respond before facing criminal charges and property forfeiture.
Humboldt Medical Supply, which received one of the U.S. attorney’s letters, closed last week. Signs on the building’s door state that the business is closed permanently by order of the Department of Justice. Humboldt Medical Supply and its landlord, Danco, could not be reached for comment by deadline. The U.S. attorney’s office would not disclose the contents of the letters.
The signs also say Humboldt Medical Supply was closed because of its proximity to the Arcata Ball Park. Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel Secretary Charley Custer said he read the letters the dispensaries received from Haag and that the U.S. Attorney indicated she was targeting dispensaries within 1,000 feet of public playgrounds.
Lovelace said he had heard of the closure, but he did not bring up specific closures or cities in his meeting with Haag. Lovelace said his focus was getting the U.S. attorney to involve local governments. Lovelace said he understands that there is no acceptable use for marijuana in the federal government’s view but said the federal government’s efforts would be better directed at things other than dispensaries and local ordinances.
“We’d love assistance on other problem areas,” Lovelace said, citing cartels and environmentally destructive grow practices. “What I tried to point out is a lot of areas where we’re having difficulty.”
Lovelace said there is a lot of room for cooperation, even without tackling the central issue of prohibition.
The supervisor said there was back and forth on the issue at Thursday’s meeting, with a bit of mutual understanding. “I’m hoping that we’ll be able to build some more constructive dialogue on this.”
The California Northern District U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the meeting.
Grant Scott-Goforth can be reached at 441-0514 or email@example.com.