Berkeley Fights Federal Prosecutors on Medical Marijuana Action

City officials in Berkeley are joining the fight against federal prosecutors’ action to shut down California’s medical marijuana dispensaries.
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Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers know that Berkeley joins the list of municipalities standing up to federal power in support of dispensaries they know are beneficial for the community at-large.

Efforts to shutter Harborside Health Center in Oakland has also been met with fierce and ongoing resistance from city leaders, who recently won a motion to stay, allowing the center to remain open while the city appeals a previous ruling positing that it has no standing in the civil forfeiture case.

In Berkeley’s case, the target is the Berkeley Patients Group, which has been in operation since 1999, just three years after California voters first approved the legalization of medicinal marijuana. Federal prosecutors in this case also are attempting to seize the dispensary property through civil forfeiture action. The dispensary is in full compliance with the city’s medical marijuana ordinance, zoning laws and regulations.

Prosecutors have been coming down hard on dozens of dispensaries like BPG, despite long histories of working in cooperation with local leaders. These facilities responsibly offer safe access to their medicine and take extreme precaution to ensure they are following the letter of local and state laws.

But of course, the distribution of marijuana for any purposes remains illegal under U.S. law, and this is what federal authorities are using to take action against dispensaries – even in cases where local law enforcement and city heads strongly back the dispensaries.

Berkeley’s claim was filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the same court handling the Harborside/Oakland case. In its claim, the city asserts that the closure of BPG is going to harm the city with the loss of substantial revenue, as the dispensary over the years has paid taxes amounting to millions of dollars.

Additionally, the city asserts, the city has devoted a significant amount of time and resources to the health and well-being of all its residents through the implementation of a comprehensive regulation and control system. The efforts of federal prosecutors undermine that carefully-enacted system.

This in turn, the city says, is going to inevitably lead to a large number of non-permitted, unregulated dispensaries and a spike in illicit marijuana sales on the streets. This negatively impacts not only the safety of the patients, but also the quality of the neighborhoods and hurts the local business community.

As Berkeley’s Mayor Tom Bates flatly asserted, “It’s time for the federal government to wake up” and stop its pointless and harmful crusade against law-abiding marijuana dispensaries. The mayor went on to defend BPG, saying it had broken no local laws, has harmed no one. In fact, the mayor said, the facility has served to improve the lives of countless people who are struggling with chronic pain, cancer, AIDS and other serious conditions. It’s also helped to ease the suffering of those who are on their death beds.

It’s our sincere hope that other cities will take up this mantle and pressure federal prosecutors to back off and give up their deeply destructive efforts.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
City of Berkeley Fights Federal Action to Seize Medical Marijuana Dispensary, July 4, 2013, By Drug Policy Alliance
More Blog Entries:
Berkley Medical Marijuana Dispensary Forced by Feds to Close, March 14, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog