Harborside Health Center: Landlord Can't Evict Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Categories: Marijuana
Harborside pot-thumb-250x187.jpg
California Court Upholds State Law; Federal Court Next on Dec. 20

Oakland's Harborside Health Center is in the business of selling medical marijuana. This is obvious to anyone -- and in particular the dispensary's landlord, who last week had her effort to evict the dispensary tossed by a judge.

The landlord, Ana Chretien, tried to evict her tenant in an effort to prevent the federal Justice Department from seizing 1840 Embarcadero, which has since 2006 housed the dispensary. U.S. Attorney for Northern California Melinda Haag filed a forfeiture proceeding in July, and Chretien filed an unlawful retainer lawsuit in August.

Chretien might have had success, had she not made one fatal error: including in the lease explicit permission for Harborside's operators to run a medical marijuana dispensary. That's protected under state law, ruled a judge, who added that federal law can't be used to evict or otherwise shut down a state-legal operation.

This does not mean that Harborside's fight is won. Far from it. A federal judge is scheduled to hear Haag outline the government's case for taking Chretien's property -- a low-slung office building just a minute's drive from Interstate 880 -- on Dec. 20. The hearing has been postponed several times and may be postponed again.

But in the meantime, Judge Evelio Grillo's ruling is a victory for California medical cannabis providers, provided they were diligent when they signed their leases.

Harborside's operators, Stephen DeAngelo and a gentleman known as Dave Wedding Dress, signed with Chretien's company a lease in January 2006. The five-year agreement, renewed in January 2011, "expressly authorizes Harborside to use the premises to operate a medical marijuana dispensary."

All was fine until Harborside employees showed up to work after the July 4 holiday to see forfeiture notices from Haag's office taped to the door. Chretien filed a lawsuit to evict Harborside on August 3, alleging that the dispensary violated its lease by conducting illegal activity that constituted a nuisance.

But a state court cannot deem a medical marijuana dispensary a "nuisance" --  thus rule that it may be evicted or otherwise shut down -- because state law protects dispensaries from such rulings, Grillo ruled. Further, a state court may not use federal law to declare a use or entity unlawful if that use has protection under state law. To do so "would be to improperly enforce federal criminal law," the judge wrote.

Chretien may be able to find a judge willing to sign an eviction order, but only in federal court, Grillo wrote.

Likewise, landlords who signed leases with medical marijuana dispensaries may be able to evict their tenants in a state court, but not if the leases include language permitting medical marijuana dispensaries. Or, in Chretien's case, "she could have included provisions giving her a right to evict based on conduct that violated any law, including the federal controlled substance law regarding marijuana," the judge wrote. "But she does not, at least in this proceeding, claim that she did so."


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5 comments
muzzylu
muzzylu

Oh, come on! Death and destruction, dogs eating cats, all because of demon marijuana! It's so stupid to fight marijuana; it is effective, safe, and has over a thousand years of use. Marijuana is a very healthy food if taken as an edible, not smoked. There is a great $2.99 e-book on medical marijuana: MARIJUANA - Guide to Buying, Growing, Harvesting, and Making Medical Marijuana Oil and Delicious Candies to Treat Pain and Ailments by Mary Bendis, Second Edition. This book has great recipes for easy marijuana oil, delicious Cannabis Chocolates, and tasty Dragon Teeth Mints.  

rsteeb
rsteeb

Ms Haag is the nuisance here.  "Schedule I Cannabis" is null and void.

Steven Python
Steven Python

That ruling might mean that even if the Feds seized the property under federal forfeiture laws, even THEY would not be able to evict the business. If he can't find a Federal judge to assert Federal jurisdiction over state law, the Feds would have an uphill battle convincing a judge to order forfeiture. And if the do find such a judge, the CA attorney general would be incompetent not to challenge such a move all the way to the Supreme Court - and they'd probably take it.

Duncan20903
Duncan20903

@rsteeb you'd better be careful or Ms. Haag will send her army of flying monkeys out to get you.

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