Last August, Anaheim worked with the DEA to threaten dozens of landlords who had rented office space to cannabis collectives that were obeying state law, which allows such clubs to distribute medicine to members who have a doctor's note.
As the Weekly first reported on Feb. 7, one of the landlords threatened by the feds–a computer engineer and his wife, a dentist–stands in danger of losing their building, a $1.5 million retirement investment property, for renting to a pot club. The only evidence in the case was $37 worth of medical pot legally purchased by an undercover cop posing as a sick patient.
At the request of the landlord, the Weekly didn't publish his name in that article. But now his Lake Forest attorney, Matthew Pappas, is being joined by the Institute For Justice (IFJ), a nationwide libertarian legal aid group that helps private property owners fight civil forfeiture cases (and which learned of the case via the Weekly. And now he's going public.
His name is Tony Jalali, and he immigrated from Iran in 1978. The two-story building he and his wife own–she used have an office there–rented to a pair of dispensaries, which is why the DEA is claiming that he facilitated violations of the federal ban on pot. However, Jalali claims because of the Obama Administration's announcement via the so-called Ogden memo, which famously (and misleadlingly) declared that the prez would not intervene in states that had legalized medical marijuana, he thought he wasn't breaking the law. In fact, he had already evicted one of the clubs for being a nuisance and immediately upon receiving the DEA's threatening letter, he evicted the second one.
Amazingly, however the feds continued to demand he hand over the property. The IFJ says that's because the feds depend on asset forfeiture to fund its operations. "Allowing the police to keep the proceeds of forfeited property gives them a direct financial incentive to use civil forfeiture," said Scott Bullock, IFJ's lead attorney for the Jalali case. "No one in the United States should lose their property without being convicted of, or even charged with, any crime. But as this case shows, fair and impartial law enforcement cannot exist as long as we allow this policing for profit."
IFJ learned of Jalali's case shortly after the Weekly exposed it in print, and the same day that Reason magazine highlighted our story online. As the IFJ says in its press release on the case, Jalali's fight against asset forfeiture is now poised to become an "epic battle" between law-abiding private citizens and the federal government.