The medical marijuana community was elated when the White House sent out new federal guidelines earlier this year, which was supposed to ease enforcement in states that have legal medical marijuana laws. I was one of many people skeptical of the new guidelines, considering the same thing happened in 2009, yet record numbers of dispensaries were raided and people arrested.
It looks like Melinda Haag, the United States Attorney for Northern California, either didn't get the memo to step back from medical marijuana enforcement, or that we are seeing 2009 all over again. Melinda Haag is moving ahead with her desire to close Harborside Health Center and the Berkeley Patients Group. Is this a rogue attorney pursuing her own agenda, or is this a sign that the recently released guidelines are bogus? I guess only time will tell.
According to BPG attorney Henry Wykowski, Haag is ignoring the new federal guidelines spelled out in a memo issued on August 29 by the Obama Justice Department and authored by Assistant Attorney General James Cole. Wykowski said he met with a federal judge and Haag's office on October 29 for a case management conference involving Haag's efforts to close BPG. Like in the Harborside case, Haag is attempting to shutter BPG by seizing the property it occupies via a process known as forfeiture. But Wykowski said the "judge questioned why this case was proceeding in light of the Cole Memo. The US Attorney had a very difficult time articulating an answer."
According to the East Bay Express:
Haag threatened BPG with forfeiture in April 2012, and forced the collective to close its doors at 2477 San Pablo Avenue. The collective moved and re-opened in December at 2366 San Pablo. Haag responded in May by filing a legal action to seize BPG's second property. She started coming after Harborside's location --- and its storefront in San Jose --- in July 2012.
By comparison, the US attorney for the Central District of California, Andre Birotte Jr., dropped four forfeiture cases against dispensary landlords after Cole 2013 came out. The defense attorney in those cases, Matthew Pappas, said Haag and other federal prosecutors in California who are still targeting legal medical cannabis dispensaries are "off the reservation. ... She needs to be exposed. ... I can't imagine she would be able to continue doing this unless folks in Washington are unaware of what she's up to."
Below is a delightful video about Melinda Haag courtesy of Harborside. It's a spoof on a Dr. Seuss classic: