[UPDATED W/CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S REACTION] Obama Administration Memo Spells End of Medical Marijuana Industry?
. Ever since four U.S. attorneys inCalifornia
announced their planned crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, cannabis rights activists have been asking one question above all others: where is California's top law enforcement official,Kamala Harris
? Why isn't she protesting the federal government's threatened encroachment onProposition 215
, the so-calledCompassionate Use Act
, which allows residents to smoke marijuana for medical needs?
Yesterday, Harris finally responded in a brief statement released to the news media but which for some reason isn't posted in its entirety on her own website. Unfortunately, Harris' response, while calling for restraint on behalf of the feds, isn't exactly the vigorous condemnation activists were hoping for. Instead, Harris simply stated that while "an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California," at the same time, "ambiguities" in the law must be "resolved either by the state Legislature or the courts."
According to a Washington Post article on Harris' statement yesterday, her message to the feds is clear: as long as you are targeting major marijuana traffickers, go for it. Otherwise, take a hike. But as the Post also notes, ever since the announced crackdown, the feds have been targeting dispensaries--not underground cultivation networks like the ones run by the Mexican cartels--as well as landlords, who are being threatened with property seizure. Given that Harris didn't even touch on these issues, the underlying truth seems to be that nothing has, or will, change, and the medical marijuana industry as we've come to know it is doomed.
ORIGINAL POST: According to a Bay Area television report yesterday, landlords in Northern California are receiving letters warning them that they could lose their property if they rent to folks involved in the weed industry.
It's just the latest evidence that despite early signs from the Obama administration that it wasn't going to interfere with the right of states to allow the medical use of marijuana, nothing could be further from the truth. And assuming the feds make good on this latest threat, it could mean the end of medical marijuana as we know it.
"With the blink of an eye and the flick of the wrist, they can shut down medical marijuana in California," said Christopher Glew, who represents several cannabis collectives in Orange County and elsewhere in California. "The funny thing is they have the absolute right to do it and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it. By going after landowners, they can grab a bunch of land, make a bunch of money, and save face politically by saying, 'Hey, we're not going after sick patients or arresting little old ladies--we're going after rich landlords.'"
The actual decision to go after landlords appears to have been made back in February, in the form of a letter doj.haag
's city attorney from theU.S. Attorney
's office warning that the feds would have no problem seizing land used for pot production whether or not Oakland was issuing permits for such activity. But nobody really noticed the memo until now, when the feds actually started warning specific landowners.
"They are starting up north and working their way down south," Glew said. "I think the feds are seeing how much land, especially in northern California, is being used for marijuana growing, and realize they can start seizing these properties and turn it into federal land. And the thing with federal forfeiture is that it can take two or three years before it goes to court, but meanwhile you lose all your property."
Because the warning letters have just now been sent, and no actual properties have been seized, it's unclear exactly what effect the Obama administration's latest assault on medical marijuana will have throughout the state. But Glew says no matter what happens, the halcyon days of the golden state's medical marijuana industry are over. "It will become very clear in the near future what direction the medical marijuana industry will be headed," he predicted. "It's either going to the grave or it will have to be re-invented. The federal giant has finally woken up. It went to sleep for a few years on us, but now it's waking up."
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