Anaheim has received $21.5 million in U.S. government revenue since 2008 in return for confiscating property under federal asset forfeiture laws, which unlike similar state laws, allow local police to seize property from drug suspects without a conviction in a court of law.
This whopping sum is spelled out in an eight-page Anaheim Police Department Special Operations Division Asset Forfeiture budget report obtained by the Weekly which was released by the city in response to a court motion for discovery material in a case involving a landlord whose building the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hopes to seize thanks to a $37 medical marijuana sale.
The fact that the city has been so handsomely reimbursed by the feds for helping crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries in Anaheim brings added irony to the bizarre state of affairs in that city, which of course has also profited nicely from hosting the Kush Expo at the city's convention center each year since 2010.
“California cities have no incentive to follow state law or to even think about seriously ill and disabled patients when the federal government holds millions of dollars of forfeiture money in front of them like a carrot,” says Matthew Pappas, who represents Tony Jalali, the aforementioned landlord.
While the budget document shows that the city received 152 payments between Jan. 2008 and June 2013, the details of each check paid to the city remain a mystery because this information was blacked out. It's therefore unclear how many of the payments involve medical marijuana-related seizures, as well as how much, if any, property was returned to defendants.
But Pappas noted that this week, Anaheim announced it was banning all medical marijuana delivery services operating within the city–something that would potentially open up a new line of drug-war profits, assuming the city plans to confiscate cars or other vehicles being used by mobile dispensaries.
“By criminalizing medical cannabis delivery services under their local laws, cities including Anaheim and Riverside have found a way now to forfeit the vehicles of patients and patient caregivers,” he argues. “It is disingenuous for them to deem patient collectives nuisances and then pass laws against delivery services. With their federal friends in the DEA and U.S. Attorney's office, they can thwart patients and state voters with the added benefit of stealing millions of dollars of from landowners, patients, and even patient family members.”
Given the disconnect between drug seizures and Kush Expo hospitality, one could be forgiven for thinking that Anaheim city officials want the public to believe that their medical marijuana policy goes like this: Unless you prefer to smoke your marijuana in a “medication tent” surrounded by hot, overly tattooed young women in bikinis, you risk being raided, arrested and losing all your property.
Pappas says he's unconvinced that city officials really want cannabis clubs to disappear completely, though.
“Make no mistake,” he says. “They want people opening collectives and doing delivery services–otherwise, they don't have the massive income from the forfeitures. The Kush Expo helps get folks to “bite,” start a collective in what appears to be friendly Anaheim, and then have it all taken away about two or three months in–they give it a bit of time to let things build-up so they can get a hefty haul. Nice government.”