By Threatening Landlords, U.S. Attorneys Have Shut Down Several City Facilities Despite Objections From Local, State Officials
As two city-permitted dispensaries are shut down today after 9 years of service to thousands of medical marijuana patients, a coalition calling itself San Francisco United for Safe Access will stage a funeral procession with somber marching band, and a press conference tomorrow to bring attention to the federal government's ongoing attack on medical marijuana. Today's closures are due to threats of criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture made by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag against the dispensaries' landlords unless they promptly evicted their tenants. Similar threats have been made against 9 dispensaries in San Francisco, which have all shut down. Advocates argue these closures are needlessly driving patients into the illicit market.
What: Funeral procession led by The Brass Mafia Marching Band. “Mourners” will be dressed in white and black and are expect to be joined by multiple elected officials.
Where: Patient advocates bearing coffins will march from Haight & Steiner to press conference at 450 Golden Gate, Federal Building and offices of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag
When:Wednesday, August 1st - Funeral procession starts at 4pm; Press conference starts at 5pm
Both dispensaries being forced to shut down today -- HopeNet and Vapor Room -- had been in operation since 2003 and 2004 respectively, and were fully permitted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Tenants in HopeNet's neighborhood are so concerned about the loss of security HopeNet provided that they have begun holding meetings to decide a course of action. With cameras monitoring 100 feet in every direction and security personnel, nearby tenants noted that HopeNet helped their businesses by increasing the safety of the neighborhood. The local Starbucks has said that it is anticipating a 10 percent drop in business with the loss of HopeNet.
U.S. Attorney Haag and Justice Department actions stem from a campaign being waged against medical marijuana in California and other states that have passed such laws. Early last year, U.S. Attorneys in at least 10 medical marijuana states began threatening not only patients and their providers, but also local and state officials attempting to pass their own public health laws. In October, all four U.S. Attorneys in California publicly announced an escalated attack in a unique press conference denouncing medical marijuana businesses. Since then, Haag and her Justice Department partners have sent more than 300 threatening letters to landlords across the state, resulting in the closure of more than 400 dispensaries, most of which were in full compliance with state law.
"U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag must be held accountable for her actions, which are completely inconsistent with Attorney General Holder's recent statements to Congress on medical marijuana," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group and a coalition member of San Francisco United for Safe Access. "The Justice Department's attempts to undermine the implementation of state law and to deny thousands of patients a safe and legal means to obtain their medication must be stopped."
The federal attacks on dispensaries in the Bay Area have not gone without significant official opposition. Several San Francisco supervisors publicly decried the closures and federal actions, including Mayor Ed Lee, who was joined by state legislators and Betty Yee of the Board of Equalization, which collects more than $100 million annually from California dispensaries. Even the Democratic Party Committees of San Francisco and Alameda County have come out against the federal actions of Haag and other U.S. Attorneys.
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With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.