New House Bill Tries to Save Medical Marijuana Dispensaries from Justice Department Crackdown

In 2009, the Justice Department formally announced that it would not direct its limited resources towards medical marijuana dispensaries acting in full compliance with state law.

According to a memo from then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, federal prosecutors “should not focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Recently, however, U.S. Attorneys in states such as California and Colorado, where medical marijuana use is legal, have began threatening to seize the buildings that house medical marijuana dispensaries unless the dispensaries’ landlords evict their cannabis-providing tenants.

Recently, DOJ set its sights on California’s Harborside Health Center, the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the world, suing to shut down Harborside’s two branches in Oakland and San Jose. Yet it is not at all clear how these suits can be squared with the Department’s 2009 memorandum. Harborside worked closely with Oakland officials to craft a strict regulatory regime to monitor their industry, and city officials agree that Harborside is in full compliance with state and local laws.

On Thursday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, which would stop the DOJ from going after dispensaries’ landlords through asset forfeiture laws. According to Americans for Safe Access, the mere threat of these kinds of lawsuits have been enough to shutter roughly 400 medical marijuana dispensaries in California.

– Read the entire article at Think Progress.