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Monday, August 6, 2012

Medical Marijuana Crackdown: Rep. Barbara Lee Tells Feds to Back Off

Posted By on Mon, Aug 6, 2012 at 7:20 AM

click to enlarge Upset with the feds
  • Upset with the feds

Last week was one of the the darkest for the medical marijuana movement, with the federal Justice Department picking two of San Francisco's best-known and best-behaving licensed medical cannabis dispensaries for closure. This came mere weeks after U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag moved to close Harborside Health Center -- the nation's biggest pot club and Oakland's second-biggest taxpayer.

Could things get much worse? Well, sure -- Haag could close all of San Francisco's dispensaries, as she is rumored to be considering to do by Christmas, according to sources.

Enter Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Oakland Democrat who is mad as hell. She introduced legislation in Washington that would halt Haag and her three California counterparts in their tracks.

Lee on Thursday introduced a bill that would prohibit the Justice

Department from using asset forfeiture laws against the landlords of

state-legal medical marijuana clubs, according to Americans for Safe


The bill would remove from Haag's arsenal her most reliable

weapon -- shutting down clubs with nothing more than a letter sent via

certified mail. It would also force her to escalate or abandon the war on those pot patients who suffer from AIDS, cancer, or chronic pain.

The forfeiture laws

employed by Haag and her counterparts in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and

San Diego were crafted in the 1980s to punish narcotics traffickers,

but have been handy tools in the statewide crackdown on medical

marijuana,which began last fall.

About a dozen dispensaries have

been shut down in the Bay Area since Oct. 7, 2011, and "hundreds" more

across the state have moved voluntarily or been evicted by landlords,

according to ASA.

In very limited public

comments made since the crackdown began, Haag has said that clubs are being targeted for vague and inconsistent reasons: They're too close to

kids, they're violating some unspecified part of state law, or, in, Harborside's

case, they're simply too big.

Lee's bill, H.R. 6335, is called the Medical

Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act. It would prohibit

the feds from using asset forfeiture proceedings to threaten,

intimidate, or otherwise close state-legal cannabis

dispensaries, and "begin to align federal law to

states' laws that allow for safe access to medical marijuana," she said

in a statement.

Will it be too little, too late? Or will it even

make it out of committee? In any case, Lee's is the first direct

reaction by a member of the federal government to the Justice

Department's arbitrary crackdowns.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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