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Marijuana Distributor Files Suit Against DEA

Herb Fellow

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The Arts District Healing Center, a Los Angeles-based medical marijuana provider, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, claiming that the Drug Enforcement Administration extorted its landlord by sending a letter threatening imprisonment and property seizure.

James Shaw, a spokesman for the center, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles. Co-plaintiffs are the Healing Center and Union of Medical Marijuana Providers.

Shaw opened his shop in April 2006 and sold marijuana -- legalized in California for medicinal purposes under Proposition 215, passed by state voters in 1996. However, under federal law, Marijuana remains a prohibited drug.

Representatives from the DEA's Los Angeles office were not available for comment. However, DEA Special Agent Jose Martinez told the Los Angeles Daily Journal that the letters weren't meant as a threat but as "an education process" for the public.

The Los Angeles Field Division of the DEA sent such a letter to Shaw's landlord, L.A. Citiproperties, stating that a marijuana dispensary was operating on the property, located on the 600 block of East 1st Street in July, the lawsuit said. The dispensary is less than a half-mile from the DEA's Los Angeles office.

"Federal law takes precedence over state law. It is not a defense to this crime or to the seizure of the property that the facility operating on the property that the facility operating on the property is providing 'medical marijuana' under California law," a letter from Timothy Landrum, special agent in charge of the DEA's Los Angeles field office, said, according to the

According to the lawsuit, Landrum also threatened L.A. Citiproperties with a prison sentence of up to 20 years. In September, L.A. Citiproperties gave the Arts District Healing Center an eviction notice, which Shaw is fighting, the lawsuit said.

DEA agents executed a search warrant at the center on October 11, four days before the scheduled eviction trial, the lawsuit states. Federal agents also froze several bank accounts and seized funds belonging to the center.

The lawsuit claims the search warrants were in retaliation for Shaw fighting the eviction notice. The DEA, Landrum and Deanne Reuter, acting group supervisor of the DEA's Los Angeles Field Office, have been named as defendants in the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, attorneys' fees and a permanent injunction against the DEA from sending similar letters to landlords in the future.

Source: CBS2
Copyright: 2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc.
Contact: CBS2.com
Website: cbs2.com - Medical Marijuana Facility Sues Drug Enforcement Agency
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