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Dea Alerts Pot-Store Landlords


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The Sacramento office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is turning to a new strategy against medical marijuana dispensaries: warning landlords they could be imprisoned or forced to forfeit their buildings if their tenants continue to peddle medical pot.

Sacramento-based DEA agents have sent letters to dispensaries' landlords in recent weeks, viewing the mailings as a simple way to cut down on what federal officials consider illicit activity.

However, medical marijuana advocates - who saw about 200 DEA letters go out in the Los Angeles area this summer - say federal officials are being too heavy-handed against such dispensaries, which California voters approved as legal more than a decade ago.

Federal officials say U.S. law against such dispensaries pre-empts the California law, but medical marijuana advocates hope to resist the latest DEA effort.

"This is one of the most insidious tactics we've seen them use so far," said Nathan Sands, a Sacramento-based communications director for the Compassionate Coalition, a medical marijuana education nonprofit. "I think they're going to see a backlash here."

Gordon Taylor, the special agent in charge of the Sacramento division of the DEA, said the agency sent 11 letters early in November to dispensaries throughout the 34 noncoastal Northern California counties over which it has jurisdiction. Most, he said, were sent to Sacramento-area pot clubs.

A spokeswoman in the San Francisco DEA office said 80 such letters were mailed to dispensaries in the Bay Area earlier this week.

The letters explain to landlords that it is a violation of federal law to rent property that is used to distribute a controlled substance.

Violations carry penalties of up to 20 years in jail or a fine of up to $500,000, the law says. Civil penalties of up to $250,000 can be assessed.

The DEA's letter also refers to a law that says property used for the distribution of controlled substances is subject to forfeiture.

In Sacramento, the letters have "definitely caused a panic," Sands said.

One Sacramento-area medical marijuana dispensary manager, who spoke anonymously because he fears action by the DEA, said that as far as he knows his landlord got no letter.

He said he knows several dispensary managers whose landlords got the letter. All are moving or shutting down, he said. Those who haven't yet been affected are nervous, he said.

"There's definitely some apprehension," he said during an interview in the dispensary. "I mean, what can you do? There's nothing really you can do."

Sacramento DEA agent Taylor said he has gotten a favorable response so far from one landlord who said he did not know the activity was going on, and from others who said they had started the eviction process.

"This could create a situation that, if pot clubs are dismantled, we don't have to do full-bore investigation," he said.

The letter advises landlords that the DEA considers the activity on their property a crime, but does not tell them what to do about it. Taylor concedes as much, saying if he got the letter, he would consult a lawyer.

Jose Martinez, a DEA spokesman at the Los Angeles division, said his office mailed 200 similar letters to landlords starting this summer, but has not taken action against anyone.

When asked if enforcement action is imminent or just a possibility, he said it is "only possible."

"What we're trying to do now is educate all of the property owners," Martinez said.

About three dozen dispensaries in the Los Angeles area shut down after getting the letters, said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana lobbying group.

"We are trying to encourage against a sense of alarm," Hermes said. "We believe the Department of Justice has limited resources to go after landlords in this egregious manner."

Hermes said the tactic is so extreme that it has galvanized some support for dispensaries and patients in Congress.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement against the letters Dec. 7.

In it, Conyers said the committee has questioned the DEA about its "efforts to undermine California law" and plans to continue to "sharply question" the DEA. The judiciary committee's spokeswoman did not return a call to The Bee.

Brenda Grantland, a Mill Valley attorney who specializes in forfeiture law, said the strategy is clearly legal. But she believes it is an overzealous use of the government's power.

"Whether it's fair or constitutional doesn't seem to matter," she said.

Grantland said the strategy appears to be an intense effort to destroy California's medical marijuana supply network in the last months of the Bush administration.

The strategy is one more episode in a decade-long dispute over federal vs. state power to regulate medical marijuana.

California voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996, giving way to the legalized use of medical marijuana. However, since then, the DEA has raided dozens of dispensaries and prosecuted their owners.

A court decision handed down this week provided a victory for federal officials.

On Thursday the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction that forced three California cannabis clubs to stop distributing medical marijuana.

Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2007 The Sacramento Bee
Contact: opinion@sacbee.com
Website: Northern California local news and information from The Sacramento Bee - sacbee.com


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What we're trying to do now is educate all of the property owners," Martinez said.
This is what the DEA has to do. It is their job.

It is in the hands of all the citizens of the United States to act to repeal any and all laws that pertain to Marijuana Prohibition in any form. Not only the economic aspect of legalization has to be addressed to inform and educate the public, but at all school,business & corporate levels. Marijuana Prohibition must be exterminated!!! the laws must be overturned, voted off the books in every state of the United States. Any government official that does not represent what the voters want them to do in a majority fashion must be voted out of office and replaced with representitives who will make these changes of ending all Marijuana Prohibition. It is chicken shit that the DEA is now going after the landlords for gaining assest values of their quest to seize all properties, of the Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and their attempts of destroying the Marijuana Industry, but, it is also one of the many legal avenues they can take. By doing this they actually undermine and are helping to destroy the United States economy even further into the VORTEX of debt that they are in. These actions and all other actions taken by the DEA must be stopped, overturned, abolished.
The States that have passed laws on Medical Marijuana that are passed by the people for the people (Our Government) need to take a stand against the Federal Laws that are only being followed by the DEA to act and enforce. The DEA can not do their job if the tools in order to do so are taken away from them. So take them away. It is up to the voters to amend these laws and the people chosen to represent them. The new year begins here soon. All over the United States there will be extra efforts mounted by many Marijuana organizations to further the changes needed, as well as the organizations that understand economic reform that is so much needed and required since the current Executive Administration has literally put the United States in the deepest debt they have ever known in all history. Currently the DEA has only about 11 months to act and seize as much property and assests of any person or business entity to fill the FEDS Booty. The costs of seizures that the Feds incuur actually costs more time, money, legal fees, to produce than they are worth. Again, economically destroying their own country, that they have sworn to protect and defend. The DEA must be closed for business. It was opened for business years ago, it can be closed!!! The education begins at all levels.
The academic institutions with all the many diversified people should examine the possibilities that what is currently working is not. The People of the United States are being undermined by the DEA and all Federal applicable laws. The people that have voted to change and repeal and incept new laws that work for the changing times in the world, are being fought against by their own government. The very aspect of the voters will is being destroyed by their own government. The DEA is just enforcing these laws.
It is not acceptable to have the many DEA men and women of all ethnicities to be working undercover in the marijuana industry but they are, again this is their job, and the citizens of the United States are paying for this. In California the DEA has infiltrated so many groups in all areas, to gain knowledge of the many aspects of the marijuana industry, during these times of many changes. There is no norm in the Marijuana business on how a certain individual or group operates, and the DEA has infiltrated so many groups that even formulating and carrying out Tactical Operations are becoming a nightmare, they have even been known to infiltrate one of their own "Undercover Medical Marijuana" operations that does exist, and not until the final busts were going down did someone realize that they were taking down their deepest cover of an operating grow-dispensary business.
DEFINE IRONY: DEA busts another DEA Undercover Marijuana Grow Operation & Dispensary. Details on the 420 news edition.
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