The DEA Wants to Use a $37 Pot Sale to Seize a $1.5 Million Anaheim Building

Will law-abiding citizens lose their investment property in the city that hosts the Kush Expo?

The DEA Wants to Use a $37 Pot Sale to Seize a $1.5 Million Anaheim Building

On July 13 and 14, stoners across Southern California will flock to the Anaheim Convention Center for the Kush Expo, a $20-per-ticket pot-stravaganza of all things cannabis. Vendors will display their wares—everything from bongs and hookahs to hydroponic growing equipment and nutrients—and doctors will be on hand to write medical-marijuana recommendations for folks in the mood to smoke weed in the tented "medication area." There will even be a "hot girl" contest for patients with presumably sore eyes.

But don't let this event let you think Anaheim is pot-friendly. Despite allowing the Kush Expo to operate annually since 2010, the city banned medical-marijuana dispensaries in 2007 and has extended the prohibition every year since. Last year, the city also called in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to help crack down on pot clubs. In August, the DEA sent threatening letters to dozens of landlords and filed three asset-forfeiture lawsuits, including one against the owner of a $1.5 million building on Ball Road.

As it happens, the building owners are the kind of clients whom defense attorneys love to represent: law-abiding citizens. Specifically, they are married, in their late middle age and from Irvine. The wife is a dentist; the husband a computer engineer who holds a government security clearance, which is why the latter asked to remain anonymous. Although he feels he has done nothing wrong, he explains, even being accused of allowing his property to be used to break the law is embarrassing to him.

According to the engineer, he and his wife purchased the Anaheim building, which has suites for up to 12 offices, in 2003 and that her dental practice was located there. (She has since relocated her office to Lake Forest.) Over the years, they've rented to a variety of tenants, from insurance companies to an immigration service. In 2009, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, presumably speaking on behalf of the newly inaugurated Barack Obama, issued the so-called Ogden memo, instructing federal prosecutors to not target medical-marijuana patients. California saw an immediate explosion of cannabis dispensaries. Anaheim was no exception, and the engineer quickly found himself fielding offers from marijuana collectives.

Because of the Ogden memo, because medical marijuana was legal under state law, and because his tenants held business permits from the city, he figured he wasn't doing anything illegal. "I am a law-abiding citizen," he says. "I didn't think I was doing anything wrong."

In its effort to seize his building, however, the DEA alleges otherwise, although it is clear from reading the agency's complaint it conducted absolutely no investigation itself, but rather relied on information provided by the Anaheim Police Department, which had conducted an undercover operation targeting the building. The investigation began—where else? —on Weedmaps, on which, according to the complaint, a pot club call Remedy Tree was located at the building and began advertising in December 2010.

"Happy New Year my fellow potheads!!!" Weedmaps reviewer Filiblunt420 wrote on the website on Jan. 1, 2011. "Man, Remedy Tree gots it goin on [sic]. . . . I picked up some Platinum Kush, some Blackberry and they hooked me up with some Plain Wreck!! I just toked on a gram of each and every hit was an adventure!! I am SO LIFTED right now . . . even as I am typing this review."

The landlord later evicted the club, but on June 11, 2011, he began renting to a club called ReLeaf Health & Wellness. Once again, the Anaheim police "investigated" the "criminal activity" allegedly taking place there simply by reading stoner reviews on Weedmaps, taking particular notice of the fact the club offered a pot strain called "Snoop OG." On Dec. 2, 2011, an undercover officer posing as a patient with a legitimate doctor's recommendation for cannabis—something required of all entrants to the collective—"purchased 4.2 net grams of marijuana for $37."

The investigation ended there, but the single sale—and a sale it was, since most pot goes for $50 or $60 per eighth of an ounce—was enough evidence for the DEA to argue that the otherwise-harmless computer engineer and dentist should lose their retirement-investment property. On Aug. 20, 2012, the agency filed its lawsuit. According to the landlord, he immediately ordered ReLeaf to leave the building, serving it with a three-day eviction notice; the club complied and left posthaste.

The landlord then sent certified letters to both the feds and the city of Anaheim, notifying them of his actions and requesting the government not seize his property. "I had no idea the tenant may allegedly be engaged in illegal activities at this location," he wrote. "I hope we do not have to go through legal procedures to . . . lift the lis pendens [pending lawsuits] filed against my property. My intent is to save the judge's valuable time, court time and taxpayers' money being used unjustly."

But the DEA refused to save time or money and drop the case, a fact that seemed to surprise the federal judge handling the case, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford. In a Dec. 3, 2012, hearing, Guilford repeatedly referred to inconsistencies in the federal government's policy on marijuana—first signaling (via the Ogden memo) that it wasn't going after medical-marijuana clubs, then cracking down and sending threatening letters to landlords. He even wondered aloud if President Obama would change his mind about marijuana again, after the DEA had already seized the building at issue in the case.

"Do you intend to carry this all the way through forfeiture?" Guilford asked U.S. Attorney Greg Parham.

"Yes, absolutely, your honor," Parham responded.

Guilford then asked Parham whether, assuming the DEA felt it necessary to threaten landlords, he was certain he'd chosen the right landlord to threaten.

"Don't you think in this world of change and whatever, progress or regress, depending on your point of view, this is the exact case that you don't want presented as a test case on the interaction of federal and state [law] and medical and dispensaries and forfeiture?" Guilford asked. "[Y]ou know, a poor dentist has to turn over a whole bunch of money just because they maybe were relying on what they had heard federal agents say?"

The lawyer for the engineer and dentist who may be in the process of losing their nest egg is Matthew Pappas. He also represents several former patients of ReLeaf Health & Wellness, including Marla James, a wheelchair-bound amputee who smokes marijuana to relieve chronic pain, in a lawsuit against Anaheim for violating California's Disabled Persons Act by calling in the feds to crack down on cannabis clubs. "The only evidence in this case is a $37 purchase of medical marijuana and an anonymous comment on a website that anybody could have written," Pappas says. "For this, they want to take a $1.5 million building."

Although it's not the city threatening to take away the engineer's building, the city did provide the DEA with the "evidence" against him, and then invited the feds to threaten him. "The question I have is if the city of Anaheim authorizes the Anaheim Convention Center to promote medical-marijuana dispensaries in the happiest place on earth, how is that not a double standard?" Pappas' client asks. "And if it's so bad, why doesn't the federal government raid the Anaheim Convention Center? They have no right to come in and tell me I can't do this if they are promoting it themselves."

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47 comments
Robert Fisher
Robert Fisher

WOW!!!! DEA get a fucking life!!!!!!!! ASSHOLES!!!!!!

Aaron Parsisian
Aaron Parsisian

better make all those grabs as quick as they can. legalization is spreading.

chux91
chux91

They only try that because of an activist US Attorney that hasn't had his wings clipped either by the locals or Washington DC, BOTH of which are coming. The US Attorney in eastern Washington is the same way as is the one overseeing Portland Oregon. The one in Seattle is from a long time Democratic party family who still lives there and who's patriarchal father actually held office in the state. So she apparently knows where her bread is buttered so to speak and is taking a hands off approach, all the while waiting (or blaming) on Washington DC to make some kind of directional decision on the matter. I doubt they could even get a jury seated here that would convict 95+% of any medi pot or any other kind cannabis related "offenses". And now that legalization is here - really here and with the blessing of the voters no less, pot trials are going the way of the buggy whip. Legalize, get GOOD lawyers and the federal carpetbaggers will either leave or go back in their closet.... 

wm.w.west
wm.w.west

Terrorism via United States Government. It's time "We The People" take our stand against this type of government before a total takeover of our rights is stripped away. 

the420rev
the420rev

i have an answer and motion to easily defeat this cruel, unusual and un warranted seizure, as a violation of the 8th amendment for cruel and excessive punishment. Please have your attorney contact me ASAP 307-221-2180 we used it on federal charges in wyo successfully!

Dory Flores
Dory Flores

If they seize that building, they should also seize the convention center.

John Grace
John Grace

What a racket! They fund their unjust war with Asset Forfeiture!

Debbie Emery
Debbie Emery

Anaheim talks about being more business-friendly. Ha.

Noah Flaum
Noah Flaum

I'm all for legalization, but a computer engineer who says he "figured he wasn't doing anything illegal" is full of shit. Everybody knows that it's a violation of federal law, even if there is a federal memo that pot shops shouldn't be a prime target (a memo which has since been retracted).

Peyton Farquhar
Peyton Farquhar

It's fascinating to watch the three-letter federal agencies go balls to the wall to prosecute state legalized cannabis-related activities at the same time they give the Wall Street criminal banking cartel infinite get-out-of-jail-free cards.

Jerry Vazquez
Jerry Vazquez

All you marijuana users should go get sticks and stones and go protest!

Michael Moon
Michael Moon

This is the real reason pot isn't legal. It's a huge source of government income.

ffairy
ffairy

Continue from previous post

I wonder if Disneyland could be behind all of these! If you have a business, would you like to see many completions next to you? Then why should Disneyland allows other dispensary to operate within perhaps a 5 to 10 miles radius from Disneyland? That is why when it comes to other city such as next door “Garden Grove” you will see many dispensaries are being operated, and you will not see the Federal Government eyes and ears? Isn’t that because Garden Grove has not asked the Federal Government to step is and scare the sh..t out of landlords? Or perhaps Garden Grove cannot afford to hire attorneys to fight back if the landlords file a class action lawsuit against the city?

Hold your horses about the Federal government, I may be wrong completely. That is if Federal Government raids Anaheim convention center on July 13 or 14, 2013, then rest assured that there is no helping hand from Federal government, or “under the table” agreement between City of Anaheim and Disneyland. In such case, City of Anaheim is using our tax payer money to fight back with state law, and not a kick back from Convention center or Disneyland.

ffairy
ffairy

The article appears to be a good advertisement for the Kush Expo and the venue. Due to four consecutive Kush Expo commitment, Anaheim Convention Center may soon be able to display a banner ad such as “Over X people have been stoned next to the happiest place on earth”!

On the contrary to the article, I think Anaheim indeed is a pot-friendly city. That is why city of Anaheim have authorized Kush Expo to use the convention center on July 13-14 to provide doctors on hand to write medical-marijuana recommendations for folks in the mood to smoke weed in the tented "medication area”. This is just “to make them feel that they are indeed in the happiest place on earth”. I do not smoke, so I do not know why there need to be 420 of such locations instead of 1-3! I guess they have a commitment “no guest will be left behind”.

EnzyteBob
EnzyteBob

It seems to me that someone's attorney should take a remedial course in real property.  It seems that the property of the criminal can be seized, but under real property law the only real property rights that party has is a leasehold interest.  The government can seize those rights if it wants to continue to pay rent to the landlord, but the building should should be off limits.

diggsc
diggsc

The landlords are obviously part of the 1%, so the seizure is just another way of them paying their fair share.  Fully justified, even without the marijuana sale.  It's about time.  

-signed, Barack Hussein Obama, and the 52% of Americans who voted for that moron. 

shootist.mp
shootist.mp

The DEA Wants to Use a $37 Pot Sale to Seize a $1.5 Million Anaheim Building

Hey Liberal buttwipes, cut the DEA's budget!

ffairy
ffairy

If federal govenment lose this shaky lawsuit, then is it possible to file a class action lawsuit against Fed or Fed is still untouchable?

ffairy
ffairy

We need the federal government to step in and help our gun issues as well. They are smart, powerful, with proven scare tactics. I wish I had Fed’s power to kick out my unwanted tenants from my apartment building.

RogEnding
RogEnding

This type story happens often; why everyone should read the book THE TYRANNY OF GOOD INTENTIONS: HOW PROSECUTORS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT ARE TRAMPLING THE CONSTITUTION IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE by Paul Craig Roberts


dawntreader22
dawntreader22

This is just another way for the government to steal their citizen's hard earned money. It is outrageous and should be stopped! How have we let this happen to us as a country?

egnyquist
egnyquist

In other news, the DEA announces the opening of its new $1.5 million bureau office in Anaheim.  

madest
madest

This is an easy win for the defendant. Eighth amendment to the constitution protects individuals from excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment. Should save himself a buck and argue it himself.

SomeGuy
SomeGuy

This is disgusting. A law abiding citizen who complied with every request made of him is going to lose his retirement because the DEA is too chicken shit to go after the cartels that are engaged in true criminal activity involving marijuana. This is someone that just wants to live out his retirement. He's complied with everything asked of him in evicting the dispensary from his property, and somehow, that's not good enough. What more do you want him to do? Hunt the renters down and put sugar in their gas tank? Maybe steal their dog? What is going to be the line that makes the DEA say "Hm, maybe he really isn't involved with these guys." 

What do we have to do to stop this? The ATF can't touch a mortar launcher in someone's condo, but the DEA can seize a $1.5 million investment property for a handful of dried weeds? This isn't right.

Other posters have said it, but I'll repeat it: This has nothing to do with weed. The weed is gone. It's not on the property anymore. This is about money. This is so the DEA can add $1.5 million to their total at the end of the year and say "Look! We captured $x.xx worth of drug trafficking items this year! Don't you feel safer?"

No, not when you're going after senior citizens that did everything you asked. Those people don't scare me, Mr. DEA man. You do. I much prefer a cold beer, but after reading this shit, I'm wondering how long before you decide that my 12% Barleywine is too mind-altering to be under my control, then put me in handcuffs and steal my landlord's house for it.

SShore
SShore

This has NOTHING to do with pot.  This is all about money and the never ending attempts by government to take more and more of it from citizens.  The confiscation law is a special tax disguised as a law enforcement action.  

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

Its not only the Feds. The local police and state courts and prosecutors are on a rampage for the lower hanging fruit. And yes they are attacking legitimate seriously ill patients such as myself. for cannabis.  For a total of 10 ounces that I helped grow myself collativley and withing the scope of the law as written in SB 420 and Prop 215. So the whole idea that they are just going after large scale operations is total BS. In my case they werent even looking for marijuana and a dirty cop who is trying to save his reputation after he costs his city 5 million dollars in a  wrongful death lawsuit in 2007 is still on the loose in the community. He should have been dismissed after him and his partner murdered Juan Herrera when they pushed him against a wall and shot him in  the head. Juan Herrera was unarmed.

BobLoblawsLawBlog
BobLoblawsLawBlog

Pot smokers tend to be their own wort enemies. Pot does less damage to the body than cigarettes and alcohol, is less addictave than cigarettes and alcohol and is less destructive to society than cigqarettes and alcohol, but just think of a person smoking pot and the image in your head is some James Franco wannabe with dreds who repeatedly says "dude". Now think of a guy smoking and drining whiskey, does he look like Don Draper? That's the problem, image. Maybe they should hire Don Draper and run a campaign to change that.

rockyneidhardt
rockyneidhardt

Weedmaps is really not a good thing for the MMJ industry. The LEO's use it against the Clubs all the time. The Closer you are to the top of the list.. The Sooner you come under investigation and face charges. Our Local and State Cops should really be ashamed of themselves for supporting the Feds in this Illegal War on MMJ. I had a good job for 5 years as a security guard for a collective. Now, 14 of my old Co-Workers are facing 10-25 years? How do Murderers go free after 6 years.. but, Legitimate Collective Owners and Managers face major Jail time. We Need to reform these laws and Legalize if we can get enough support. FEDS.. You lost the war on drugs! You are now working for the Mexican and Afghani drug cartels and you need to be totally reformed if not disbanded.

fairfairy100
fairfairy100

@Dory Flores

Based on the report, Federal government has not investigated the case, but the city of Anaheim. If the dispensary was selling cannabis to ordinary people, then why an under cover officer had to obtain a  prescription (doctor recommendation) to get in to the secured facility and to join the club before being able to get his/her medication? And why paid only $37.00 for street value of $50-$60? What is the difference whn City of Anaheim allow 420 such facilities to provide marijuana? Even providing Doctor at Anaheim Convention Center to write prescription for new patients? Who are we kidding? Who is promoting and pushing the medical marijuana in Anaheim? Go to the Kush expo site at http://kushexpo.com/  You be the judge.

fairfairy100
fairfairy100

@Peyton Farquhar

Why there are ample such dispensaies in Garden Grove? Is there a reason that FED or DEA are targeting dispensaries around Disneyland in Anaheim? Why not Garden Grove which has ample such dispensaries? Has anyone checked to see how many of these dispensaries have been opened since Anaheim Convention Center started hosting the Kush Expo?

SombodyElse
SombodyElse

@madestDon't bet the house on it. Just look up:

United States v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Mass. (The Motel Caswell)

 If the government wants your land, they'll just steal it (or try to). Just don't biatch about it, since many of us have been trying to tell you that if you do not rise up against these travesties, they will continue and get worse. They have gotten worse, haven't they?

fairfairy100
fairfairy100

@SomeGuy Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones !!! Do not criticize or slander another if you are vulnerable to retaliation.
City of Anaheim, Anaheim convention center, and Disneland should all be aware of an upcoming class action lawsuit. Kush Expo is promoting medical marijuna by offering 420 locations to smoke pot!!! and the DEA or Federal Government yet to raid them, or take over the convention center!

fairfairy100
fairfairy100

@SShore

You are correct this has nothing to do with pot. It was on the news that the diepensary was raided, apparently it was leaked out by media! but, the so called undercover officer could not find any evidence to justify the raid! He had to get a recommendation from a doctor, had to fill-out the paper work to join the club. Then get the medication and pay $37 as a club member instead of $60. Thanks to the UNDERCOVER officer who deserves a medal, Federal government now may have a hard time to prove that the dispensary was selling medical marijuana for recreational use.

There is only one solution left for Fed and the undercover officer, that is to place some pots in the middle of the night at the dispensary, then raid it the next day. Oops, it is too bad, the idea won't work, as it appears the dispensary was forced to be closed immediately by the landlord. 

fairfairy100
fairfairy100

@paullucas714

Wait till you see a class action lawsuit again city of Anaheim. You and I as a tax payer have to pay the cost. Unless Disneyland is willing to step in or the Federal government manage to take over the property for $37 sale to a patient who happens to be an under cover officer!!! What kind of undercover officer was he? If he was truly an undercover officer he/she should have managed to get in without going to see a doctor for recommendation?

 
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