Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Stay Open Despite Federal Deadline

Categories: Marijuana
hopenet.jpg
Here today. And probably tomorrow.
On the day the federal government wished HopeNet to close, the operators of San Francisco's oldest licensed and taxpaying medical marijuana dispensary prepared accordingly: They grilled hot dogs.

"We made about 220," said Catherine Smith, whose Ninth Street medical cannabis dispensary is in line to be shut down by the federal Justice Department.

But for now, it's chow down -- and dispense medical marijuana. The wieners went to some of the people who were getting cannabis in flower, concentrate, and edible form until the dispensary closed at 9 p.m.

HopeNet was one of three dispensaries -- along with 208 Valencia Caregivers and Shambhala Healing Center on Mission Street -- whose landlords received warning letters from Melinda Haag, the United States Attorney for Northern California. Dated Feb. 21, the letters gave the landlords 45 days -- or until Friday, April 6 -- to shut the dispensaries down or face stiff prison terms and property forfeitures.

Thus far, Haag's office had been batting a perfect five-for-five in San Francisco. But while both HopeNet and Shambhala remained open on Friday (and 208 Valencia, we were told), the Justice Department's perfect streak might be coming to an end.

The letters sent to the landlords of Shambhala, 208 Valencia, and HopeNet -- private property-owners in Beverley Hills and San Francisco -- advise that the properties are housing pot clubs that are operating too close to schools or parks.

The fact that the pot clubs follow state and local medical marijuana law and zoning codes are irrelevant. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, the letters advise, and the proximity to areas where children play trigger stiff penalty enhancements.

Similar letters forced other dispensaries to shut down, including two in the Tenderloin, two in the Mission District, and one on Market Street, all since November. Similar actions by Haag's counterparts in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego have shut down hundreds of California medical marijuana dispensaries since a statewide crackdown was announced Oct. 7, 2011. In her office's sole interview since the crackdown began, Haag told California Watch's Michael Montgomery that she's "drawn a line" against dispensaries that operate near children.

But while both HopeNet and Shambhala remained open on the deadline date given in the letters, there may not be much reason to celebrate. Shambhala's landlord received a one-month extension from Haag's office so that the owner, Ebrahim Poura of Beverly Hills, can work out a deal to terminate the dispensary's "15-year lease," according to dispensary manager Al Shawa.

No such extensions were granted to the landlords of Medithrive, Divinity Tree Cooperative, Mr. Nice Guy, Sanctuary, or Market Street Cooperative. Then again, they might not have asked.

In HopeNet's case, landlord Clay Investments, LLC -- which is connected to a Marina District realty firm -- served its tenant eviction papers on Thursday, April 5, Smith said. The dispensary is held in a tenancy-in-common, and is trickier to evict than a property held by a sole owner. There's that, and there's also the possibility that the dispensary could win an eviction case.

While HopeNet and other San Francisco medical marijuana dispensaries were raided in the Bush era, the Justice Department's offensive has, to date, been raid-free. Last Monday's raid of Oaksterdam University in Oakland was led by agents from the Internal Revenue Service, which seized records, computers, and marijuana plants.

The IRS audited Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee and used a section of tax code called 280e -- which prevents businesses that sell illegal substances from claiming certain expenses on their federal taxes -- to put the de facto leader of the marijuana legalization movement out of business.

By contrast, eviction proceedings are held in state court, which recognizes California medical marijuana law. As long as the dispensary is not in violation of its lease, a Superior Court judge or jury may not be able to find a legal a reason to evict the dispensary.

That's the theory anyway. And since the dispensaries swear up and down that they're complying with every law except for the federal Controlled Substances Act, the theory is plausible.

Those keeping score at home may know that it's a legal loophole that didn't work in Marin County. Fairfax-based Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana briefly attempted to fight eviction proceedings filed by its landlord -- following the first steps for property forfeiture filed by Haag's office -- before shutting down and vacating.

So while a legal loophole may not be much, the lights are still on, marijuana's still being sold, and about 20 jobs are still intact. And that, at least, is something.

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54 comments
Nightofshortee
Nightofshortee

Why is the federa govervment so against medical cannibus when it is helping people!! My lady has a lot of medical problems and oneis gastrolpersis where there is no cure for it and headaches that she has had since she was a kid that they dontknow. Why and she uses medical cannibus for both that helps her!! Instead of using all these prescriptions that have side effects!! Hash helps people with brain tumors!!! People with ms!!!!! Irs is taxing clubs so much they have no choice tob close!! But are government is broke!! Where is all the money going!!! It is understandable not to haveby school zones but what about the. People that are really hurting!!!! There are all these meth labs up in the mountains where no one can se them hidden!!go after that. Instead of wasting tax payers money!@!

Steven Cooley
Steven Cooley

Melinda Haag is a former criminal defense attorney who defended clients from Big Pharma against Federal charges of securities fraud.  One has to wonder if her motivation for pursuing these dispensary shutdowns - an action that is opposed almost unanimously by the community at large - is based on her history of working with the pharmaceutical industry.

Steven Cooley
Steven Cooley

oh  by the  way  I  am  not that fat attorney in LA  who is fighting medical marijuana and is clueless as to the help medical  marijuana does for people. He is  probably being paid by drug companies that kill people..........

Steven Cooley
Steven Cooley

If one prominent attorney is right about the legal ramifications of the District of Columbia's marijuana law -- specifically, that it was approved by the U.S. Congress -- then it could be a game-changer nationwide.D.C.'s medical marijuana law was the first time that the United States Congress had ever given its explicit assent to any state or local law that permits the medicinal use of marijuana -- and, according to a California attorney who specializes in health care compliance, that is enormously significant under the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.In 2009, noting that it was "allowing" the voters of Washington, D.C., to vote on and implement that city's Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment law, Congress approved medicinal cannabis in the federal District of Columbia, over which it has all governmental power.On December 2, 2011, in anticipation of the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers, the District's mayor released final rules for the program. Last month, the D.C. Council compromised on medical marijuana cultivation centers, a compromise agreement that limited the number of centers in each ward to six. The District of Columbia's medical marijuana program is now being implemented."States with medical marijuana programs should now be free from federal interference since Congress has allowed local control," attorney Matthew Pappas at Pappas Law Group, based in Long Beach, California, told Toke of the Town Monday afternoon. "Congress being the legislative branch of the federal sovereign and the only body that can change these laws has now done so by recognizing the voting rights of Washington, D.C., citizens."Likewise, Californians and citizens of the 15 other states which have legalized medicinal cannabis are equally protected and have the same voting rights in respect to medical marijuana, according to Pappas Law Group. "Congress has turned over the area of medical marijuana to state and local governments," said Pappas, speaking for the disabled plaintiffs in the California case Marla James v. the Cities of Costa Mesa and Lake Forest. "Through Congress's duty to equally protect everyone under the law, all patients in states with medical marijuana laws operating in full compliance with those laws should not, from now forward, be subject to previous long standing federal marijuana prohibitions.""They're not going to be subject to the CSA [Controlled Substances Act]," Pappas confirmed to Toke of the Town in a telephone conversation. "In our country, when one group of voters has been given the right to vote on something, other voters, likewise, have the right to do so -- in this case, approve medical marijuana.""In states where voters have not voted on it, for instance Nebraska, of course it's not going to be legal there," Pappas told us. "But patients and medical marijuana centers operating in full compliance with state laws -- through equal protection -- are not going to be subject to federal prohibition.""Our traction in the courts is very strong on this issue," Pappas told us. "I'm very positive that at some point we're going to have a decision from the courts."Pappas, who earned his J.D. from Western State University and was admitted to practice law in the State of California in 1994, is a member of the federal bars for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the Central District of California, the Northern District of California, and the Southern District of California.Focused in the area of health care regulatory compliance, he developed compliance systems for large health care providers including University Medical Center Southern Nevada, UNR Medical School, Pharmerica, Children's Hospital of Ohio, Banner Health System, and Molina Healthcare.

Steven Cooley
Steven Cooley

Is it not time for a class action lawsuite against Melinda Haag from all of us patients  who are not avle to get our meds now?

Pirate
Pirate

How ya like yur Obama scum now ?? !!

Nothin but another lying politician !!

Sherri
Sherri

Fire the Haag. Then prevent her from ever having this much control under any circumstance-ever.If this isn't personally motivated profession misconduct I have no idea what is.

 

Xnewfaces
Xnewfaces

There are countless pot shops in LA. They are everywhere.1-4 on every main street and some side streets. More open every day. Move to LA because the Feds barely touch it. I believe the Feds think MMJ is OK in LA and it seems theyencourage more shops to open. They do absolutely nothing to close any of them down while the City Counselsits idle and do absolutely nothing as well. The Feds think they are doing some good by closing a mere few shops out of a few thousand shops in Cali. The Feds look like they absolutely adore pot shops in LAand would love for many more to open so they could leave them be.It's a beautiful thing.  How 'bout  a few thousand of us local LA residentsopen some more pot shops to make some real money! After allit is obviously very ok with the Feds to do so so why not? The Feds will NOT touch LA as all of us already know.

Jykddlhppr
Jykddlhppr

Too close to schools & parks where children play is an idiotic excuse. Oh, they may be robbed and children may get hurt.  Banks, convenience stores, pharmacies all are allowed to operate in these vicinities, and all are robbed at a much higher rate than dispensaries, and 2 sell actual harmful substances. Pharmacies sell drugs that kill every day, and any child can steal these from their parents. Convenience stores sell many things that are potentially deadly. Peanuts kill more people each year than cannabis has in 5000 years, unless you consider the deaths from the violence associated with it, which wouldn't exist if it were legal.

Powertothepeople!
Powertothepeople!

There will come a Time when the opposition will loose this battle... remember, a beast always fights it's hardest battle when it knows it's on it's way out! Power to the People! 

rsteeb
rsteeb

"Schedule I Cannabis" is a damned lie, even if it WERE constitutional.  Reparations will be issued.

Gabe
Gabe

yeah sure close down all theses "dangerous" recreational centers to protect young kids that...could...be playing in the vicinty!! while the fact that instead of these legal centers there will be an increase of real dangerous ilegal drug dealers on the same streets,.. that doesnt create an issue...noooo!! its the bad and irresponsible tax paying shop that must be stopped!!! CALIFORNIA WTF! 

Alan
Alan

Tell Haag to tell that to Irvin Rosenfeld who has been getting Marijuana from the Federal Government for 30 years

Jose
Jose

This is going to piss of the Mexican cartels.  They were expecting the marijuana prices to go up more than just a little bit.

Tim Giangiobbe
Tim Giangiobbe

The risks associated with the medical cannabis dispensing is incredibly high. Not only do they worry about the FEDS they also worry about being robbed,hurt or killed over herb.  Most dispensaries have panic buttons that call the local police. . TOO BAD they can't keep the FEDS AWAY. The next time you visit your provider thank them for taking such huge risks. No doubt there will always be plenty of smitten youngsters willing to take the risk and work in this highly risky field because of the allure .The adrenaline rush of running cannabis from the Emerald Triangle. The Highway Patrol isn't on the same page plus even with SB-420  the law is still ignorant and therefore growers and patients transporting medicine take huge risks too. Until all these risks are addressed the price will remain high. Legalize and watch the price go down and dirty politics will be history. 

David
David

Can't help but wonder what the IRS agents are doing now with marijuana plants.  Isn't that illegal possession???

Hemp2012
Hemp2012

People ,we can end Cannabis Hemp Prohibition! It was the corporations that banned Cannabis in 1937 for their own corporate agenda! Join the California Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative (CCHHI ) 2012 and its quest to end Cannabis Hemp Prohibtion! Help us end the raids and Relegalize the most precious renewable resource on Earth-Cannabis Hemp! Hemp is our number one biomas fuel! Hemp is our number one fiber ! Hemp is our number one source for paper ! Please check out out website at cchhi2012 dot org and join our Facebook CCHHI 2012 Group ! We have until June 6,2012 to gather 800,000 signatures ! Help us place this CCHHI 2012 on the ballot! Please donate to this campaign to end the raids and free the most precious natural renewable resource on Earth-Cannabis Hemp' Cannabis Hemp was banned in 1937 by the 1%!Let's end Cannabis Hemp Prohibtion today! Place the CCHHI 2012 on the ballot! Donate today ! End the raids! Respect state law ! Take Hemp back from the 1%!

lamedicalmarijuana
lamedicalmarijuana

The Media keeps on boasting about this supposed federal crackdown...? Oh, Really??? DRIVE around any of the big Californian cities and you can still find PLENTY of POT SHOPS!

In Los Angeles there are more Medical Marijuana Dispensaries then ever!  Reality flies in the face of what the media is reporting again!!

DO NOT BELIEVE THE MEDIA!

Salvatore Mamaloshen
Salvatore Mamaloshen

While we appreciate your reporting,  it unfortunately call attention to people violating Fed law, and therefore publicly challenging the Feds to do something about it. I wish there was a better way to inform people without using newspapers...

Jereme Fishel
Jereme Fishel

The greatest common factor between Fed, State, City, lessor, lessee, operator, and highest share owner of nonprofit is the operator. At the heart of every operation is the operator and the operator has the greatest onus to show compliance- for they must show to all, the accurate numbers and organize payments to agencies, lessor, and owner. If the operator is in error than the whole operation is at risk. Example: operator puts lease in their name..now the highest share owner of nonprofit as well as any creditors are in a checkmate situation. All agencies/creditors/nonprofit owner must be paid in a timely manner and in a fair amount by the operator. When it comes to being to close to another dispensary, park, or school, the lessor and nonprofit owner must be held accountable. They must know that they cannot be within 600 feet of a school or they must move, no matter what. 

Evil bitch
Evil bitch

Someone needs to investigate every nasty little corner of Haag's life - and then expose it all to everyone.  Destroy her credibility and her chance to ever have decent employment ever again. 

I'd call her the "c" word, that rhymes with punt, but I'm sure it's not nasty enough to describe this vile harpy.  (BTW, you stupid hag, I hope you get breast cancer and die a horribly prolonged and painful death).

Janet Williams
Janet Williams

But Obama will carry California anyway. That's why he can do this. He throws a bone to the drug warriors and pays no price at the polls. It's Clintonian triangulation at its finest. Screw your friends because they have no place else to go.

codesmith
codesmith

Where is the California Army to defend these legal businesses against the Fed?

US OUT OF SF!

Gopal Rao
Gopal Rao

Melinda Haag is a former criminal defense attorney who defended clients from Big Pharma against Federal charges of securities fraud.  One has to wonder if her motivation for pursuing these dispensary shutdowns - an action that is opposed almost unanimously by the community at large - is based on her history of working with the pharmaceutical industry.

At the very least, one has to wonder which poses a greater threat to the future of "the children"; the presence of thriving city-sanctioned dispensaries, or the continued sanctuary for white collar criminals who have cost society hundreds of billions of dollars, ruining municipalities and school districts in the process?

rsteeb
rsteeb

 Right.  The "Equal Protection Clause" in the Bill of Rights.  Trumps yer "Commerce Clause" eh?

Jose
Jose

They're using it for training.

Elizabethfrantes
Elizabethfrantes

Please to &&&* your mothers.  No more taxes, no more "regulation" because that is what got us in this mess.  We don't need more rules and regulations, we don't need more appointed idiots tellingus what to do. 

Sherri
Sherri

 lame why are you here? We are hoping that ALL of California's patients are supported. There have been multiple closures and sick people are suffering. If you care only about LA then that's fine. But some of us care about ALL Californians.

joeyrockx
joeyrockx

So your OK with tax paying citizens being thrown in prison, legal business being shut down, and property owners having their homes and buildings taken from them?

Jose
Jose

Do you think the Feds read these blogs?  They're too busy watching TV, taking steroids, and working out in their gyms.

Elizabethfrantes
Elizabethfrantes

Problem is they keep changing the rules and jacking up the fees and taxes.  As for schools, too bad.  I live less than a block from a school  and all we have in the 'hood are bars, strip clubs, and liquor stores.  BTW, anyone in any office who takes any revenue in any form is RACKETEERING under Fed law, but you will notice that the Feds ain't taking out the politicians who are getting millions under and over the table .. . .

Elizabethfrantes
Elizabethfrantes

Tell Jeff Novitsky she uses hGH to "cheat"  .. .  maybe he'll dumpster dive her for years like he did BALCO!

Jose
Jose

Call the ethics hotline for the State Bar of California800-238-4427 (toll free in California) 415-538-2150 (from outside California) 800-843-9053 (Attorney Complaint Hotline)

Jose
Jose

You can vote for Ron Paul, even if it's a write-in, instead of throwing away your vote for the two-party dictatorship.

Elizabethfrantes
Elizabethfrantes

Join with me, ask all your former military friends and family to OCCUPY THE PRESIDIO for and by Veterans .. .  and then we shall Form a Well Regulated Militia.  Without the military at the Presidio we have no mass evac plan no way of rescuing anyone ... and after losing the military we acutally CUT BACK ON EMERGENCY SERVICES at the same time builing up  where we shouldn't . .. first thing we do is form a K9 Corp and train Citizen Dogs to do rescue work so we won't have to wait for help . .. as if there is any help to come.  Read what FEMA says about building on the waterfront esp Mission Bay.  We re not just flirting with disaster, we asking for it. 

Pollackjackson
Pollackjackson

Very astute, Jason.  And, yes, you are correct.  She's a whore for the money and right now the Fed Gov.is her John and we all know that Big Parm is in bed with the Feds.  Win-Win for the whores, Johns, Big Pharm, no so much for us who really want to keep some of our liberties.  

Jose
Jose

Call the ethics hotline for the State Bar of California

800-238-4427 (toll free in California) 415-538-2150 (from outside California) 800-843-9053 (Attorney Complaint Hotline)

Jose
Jose

This sounds like grounds for professional misconduct.  I think Melinda Haag could lose her license to practice law for five years or more.

Alan
Alan

Irvin's Marijuana is first grown in Mississippi., then get sent to another state where the Research Triangle Institute fills the prescription, and then it goes to a third state; Florida, where he picks it up up.  The Feds send it across many state lines. How does the Commerce Clause apply to Irvin Rosenfeld and the Equal Protection Clause for the people of the same states or others such as California for example. Are we in the USA or what?

rsteeb
rsteeb

 what, and Haag didn't?  Get real.

Sherri
Sherri

 Yep I am writing in Ron Paul too.

Kevin Hunt
Kevin Hunt

Gary Johnson has many of the same positions as Ron Paul.  I am voting for him.

joeyrockx
joeyrockx

That's what I'm going to do. I'd be embarrassed to vote for anyone else when we have a candidate like Ron Paul.

Elizabethfrantes
Elizabethfrantes

And write in whomever you please if the candidates on the slate displease you. 

rsteeb
rsteeb

 I fully intend to.

Dalemmeltzer
Dalemmeltzer

Gary Johnson has endorsed I502 in washington state. Paul has not as of yet.

Sherri
Sherri

 Gary Johnson in no way has the money, media connections, and lobby support to be able to take on a angry mass of established,super rich Democrats and Republicans. You can toss your vote any way you like but if you're about legalization Paul is the way to go IMO.

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