California: Obama Administration Targets Respected Marijuana Dispensary For Closure

(Graphic: Berkeley Patients Group)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Berkeley Patients Group, widely considered a national model for regulated medical marijuana providers and one of the oldest nonprofit medical cannabis collectives in California, on Wednesday announced it will fight a civil asset forfeiture suit served against its landlord in an effort to shutter the licensed business and seize the property from which it operates.

Berkeley city officials stood with representatives of Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) at a Wednesday press conference to defend the non-profit collective and announce a resolution condemning the actions of the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney.

In response to a similar case filed against Harborside Health Center by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in June 2012, city officials in Oakland filed a lawsuit to prevent the closure and stop Haag’s suit from moving forward. This response and the resolution from Berkeley City Council represent a growing demand from state and local officials that the Obama Administration allow states to determine marijuana policy per its stated policy.

"Berkeley Patients Group is universally recognized as an outstanding member of the local business community -- contributing to multiple charitable organizations, creating over 40 living wage jobs with full health care benefits, and working with municipal officials to ensure the utmost compliance with strict guidelines regulating their business," said Aaron Smith of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA).

"It's reprehensible that the Department of Justice would consider using federal tax dollars to close a respected local business that contributes substantially to the health and economy of its community, particularly because its closure will enrich the coffers of criminal drug dealers and undermine the will of California voters," Smith said.

"U.S. Attorney Haag's views on marijuana policy are out of step with those of the vast majority of voters in her state, and her office is acting in direct conflict with the Department of Justice’s 2009 Ogden Memo, which set a policy to respect state law in matters involving medical cannabis," Smith said. "It's high time for the Obama Administration to put a stop to this rogue activity and review all pending federal medical marijuana cases for compliance with stated administration policy.

"One has no choice but to question DOJ's allegiances when tax dollars are being used to close down an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau to further the economic interests of criminal drug dealers and cartels," Smith said.

(Graphic: Berkeley Patients Group)