The Oakland Cannabis Buyer’s Club closed on October 19 after exhausting its legal remedies. The Club was founded by Jeff Jones, 24, as a bicycle powered medical delivery service in 1995. By the time it closed its Broadway office in downtown Oakland, it served 2,200 medical patients.
In January, 1998, the government filed civil court suit against the Club for violating federal law. In May, Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern California US District Court, issued a temporary injunction against Club operation. The Club defied this so the federal prosecutor went back to court.
On August 13, the City Council showed its support for the Club by designating it the city’s official marijuana provider and making its staff and suppliers City Officers. They reasoned that, since the federal Controlled Substances Act exempts government officials from drug laws in the performance of duty (designed to allow narcs to buy and sell drugs), it also protected these officers from the federal laws. On September 1, the judge ruled this argument “creative… but not persuasive.”
On October 15, Judge Breyer ruled that the Club must be closed and that there were no grounds for a trial on the issues. If the Club did not close voluntarily, US Marshals would be sent in.
The judge gave the Club three days to appeal the decision, but the Appeals Court denied their motions. On October 18 at 5pm, Jeff Jones handed the keys to the landlord. In his parting remarks he said, “Not only do we fear for our patients, but we are bitterly disappointed for the voters of the state of California who have had their votes nullified today by the efforts of a heavy-handed and misguided federal government.”
Jones added “Imminent harm will befall many of the patients who will be forced to do without their medicine or risk their safety on the street.” Speaking to a few friends and supporters he said “I’m kind of saddened to be an American right now.”
Symbolic city support
The City Council, at its regular meeting held the next evening, declared a “public health emergency” over medical marijuana. It was a close vote, 5-4, though all the members voiced support for the club. Councilman John Russo stated, “It floors me. I think we are still trapped in a culture warp from 60 years ago”.
Also speaking in favor of the initiative, Councilman Nate Miley said, “What we do tonight will send a powerful message, both here and throughout the state and the world.” While the gesture is symbolic and doesn’t call for the city to take action, it is the first step if the city is to distribute marijuana for patients under California’s Prop. 215.