Friday, January 9, 2009

Landlords Threatened with forfeiture

January, 2009
Landlords Of Medical Cannabis Centers Threatened With Real Estate Forfeiture

By Jacqueline Patterson

Many Bay area medical cannabis dispensary operators, including Marin's own
lyrical Lynette Shaw, rallied in Downtown San Francisco on December 20th in
protest of the Drug Enforcement Administration's recent execution of another
attack on medical cannabis dispensaries.

In an effort to overcome the obstacles raised in the raid tactics the DEA
employed in earlier attempts to circumvent a compassionate community of
medical cannabis connoisseurs, the feds have resorted to sending letters to
landlords who rent commercial space to medical cannabis providers, first in
Southern California back in July and more recently here in the Bay area.
Landlords who own space occupied by medical cannabis dispensaries in Marin,
San Francisco, and Alameda counties received letters the second week in

So far, only one landlord has been tried and convicted In May of 2007, 62
year-old Thomas Grossi Sr. was ordered to forfeit nearly $400,000 and
sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. When released from prison, Grossi
will be required to complete a three-year period of supervised release. Such
harsh punishment (in contrast there was a case in this country in which a
pedophile was given probation because the judge deemed him too short to go
to prison) can only be construed as a deterrent to any property owner who
might think to advance the safe legal (under state law) distribution of
medical cannabis. Surely productive law-abiding citizens will not risk their
liberty or even their personal assets when threatened with such great risk
of loss and trauma.

It would seem that inspiring landlords to evict tenants who cultivate,
process, or distribute medical cannabis might be more cost effective and
less labor intensive than the oft employed raids, but this new strategy has
not only instigated potential legal defenses of the medical cannabis
community, it has also drawn the attention of members of Congress, many of
whom already opposed the use of brutal force against patients who were
complying with local law.

Respectively, in a stroke of legal genius, the Union of Medical Marijuana
Providers filed a lawsuit on December 6th that charges the DEA with
violation of California Penal Code ¤ 518, "which provides that 'extortion is
the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, or the obtaining
of an official act of a public officer induced by wrongful use of force or
fear or under color of official right."

The lawsuit attracted the attention of Michigan Congressman John Conyers
who, on December 7, issued the following statement, "I am deeply concerned
about recent reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration is threatening
private landlords with asset forfeiture and possible imprisonment if they
refuse to evict organizations legally dispensing medical marijuana to
suffering patients."

The House Judiciary Committee Chairman followed the comment by stating that
the Committee had already questioned the DEA in regards to the agency's
departure from the limitations of federalism with respect to California'
Compassionate Use Act.

Interestingly, the UMMP lawsuit was prefaced by a letter dated October 19th,
2007 to Timothy Landrum, Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field
Division Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The correspondence
claims that on October 11, 2007 the DEA retaliated against the Arts District
Healing Center, a medical cannabis dispensary that legally operated in Los
Angeles for about 18 months, because that particular collective was the
solitary seeker of legal protection from the landlord letters that were sent
in August.

Since its inception in 1973, the Drug Enforcement Administration has
adamantly maintained that "marijuana" is a Schedule I drug with no approved
medical value, only recently conceding (notably, in Showtime's independent
film "In POT We Trust") that "smoked marijuana" has "no medical value" and
is rightly confined to its Schedule I status.

If that is the case, however, then why are tins of machine rolled "marijuana
cigarettes" sent to the five remaining patients who receive freeze-dried
marijuana from the federal government under the investigational new drug
protocol first implemented by Robert Randall in the mid-seventies? For
nearly twenty-five years, the physicians of patients who had happened upon
the evidence that cannabis alleviated symptoms of disorders or diseases
which conventional pharmatherapies failed to adequately treat were invited
to wade through years of paperwork so that they might one day receive, for
said patient, shiny tin cans of ten-year-old marijuana.

Because the seeds and stems are left in the smokeable plant matter, aging
patients, already in pain from rare diseases such as nail patella syndrome
and multiple congenital cartilaginous exostoses, must unroll, clean,
moisturize, and reroll their medicine into what only the American government
refers to as "marijuana cigarettes" because that is the only method of
ingestion that our government approved.

"The rights of one American belong to all," states George McMahon in his
gravelly wizened voice but another George disagreed. McMahon was the last
patient to be granted government shwag (which keeps him alive and kickin)
before President George Bush Sr. shut the protocol down in response to an
overwhelming flood of applications from AIDS victims dealing with the
devastating effects of the disease, and the harsh side effects of the
chemical cocktails meant to preserve the patients health.

For many of those patients marijuana meant the difference between life and
death and Former President Bush closed the door on their only avenue of
legal access to safe effective medicine at that time but when the MANN
closes the Door, the rebels open a window and compassionate Californians
built a movement that has inspired a nation (slowly) to follow.

In July, a custody hearing was held regarding my seven-year-old son; I
didn't have the physical or financial capacity to get to the hearing, nor
could I, at that point in time, care for my brave compassionate little boy.
So custody was awarded to the petitioning party and as much as that hurts,
it happens every day to thousands of medical cannabis patients all over the

In this particular instance, the judge reprimanded me for using my children
as "props" at a marijuana rally at which I spoke to garner support for the
medical cannabis bill for which Missouri patients had secured a committee

My parents smoked marijuana recreationally for years when I was a child and
I swore that I would never hide my use of the herb from my own children. On
the contrary, I have made every effort to teach my children American values,
which include making bad laws better, not that a judge in Iowa would ever
understand that.

The "Conservative" camp in America's politic circus contends that legalizing
medical cannabis would set a bad example for the children but as Patients
Out of Time (which is what the POT in "In POT We Trust" really stands for)
Director, Mary Lynn Mathre points out, we should be teaching our children
that "medicine should only be used when needed and at the appropriate
dosage. Medicine should not be used for fun." If the abuse of pharmaceutical
drugs prevalent in youth culture today is any indication, I think that
message may have gotten lost in the mail.

Meanwhile, medical cannabis providers will brace themselves against the
raids, from which they now have a bit of a holiday reprieve, and continue
the struggle to provide patients with cannabis and edibles because as Mickey
Martin of former Tainted fame says, "providing safe effective reliable
medicine to people who need it, gives us a purpose.'

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