Last Medical Marijuana Co-Op In San Diego To Remain Open Temporarily
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Aired 7/25/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.
The dispensary confrontation is just part of the ongoing battle between federal authorities and state medical marijuana collectives that began last year. We'll hear an update on where a patient's right to medical marijuana stands now in San Diego and about efforts to get voters involved in the issue.
KPBS Reporter Erik Anderson
Eugene Long, an employment attorney with the Brown Law Group and and former U.S. Attorney
Jessica McElfresh counsel, Citizens for Patients Rights
Answers To Written Questions Submitted To The U.S. Attorney's Office In San Diego
What is the DOJ's position?
Landlords who lease, rent or make available property for the purpose of the unlawful manufacture, storing, distributing or possessing of marijuana are in violation of federal law. It is not a defense to either criminal liability or to the forfeiture of property that the dispensary is providing "medical marijuana." The United States Attorney's Office supports eviction of the commercial marijuana businesses, like Mother Earth, that operate outside of federal law.
Why is so much effort going into shutting down Dispensaries?
The United States Attorneys for the districts in California received a growing number of complaints from citizens and law enforcement agencies about the negative impacts of the dispensaries in their communities. The proliferation of profit driven commercial marijuana businesses throughout the state led to the distribution of marijuana to healthy teens and young adults, and introduced drug related crime to business districts. In late 2011, the complaints reached a fever pitch that could not be ignored.
Now that a bankruptcy court is allowing the business to stay open, what will the DOJ do?
The bankruptcy filing automatically stays civil litigation against Mother Earth for the time being, except as expressly allowed. The stay may delay the eviction by Mother Earth's landlord, but it does not allow Mother Earth to operate a commercial marijuana business in violation of federal law. Nor does it shield it from criminal liability.
A bankruptcy judge did what a federal judge refused to do Tuesday, stop the eviction of San Diego County's only licensed medical marijuana dispensary. Mother Earth Alternative Healing Cooperative will be open for business Wednesday and the group's 70,000 customers will be able to get their medicine for at least 45 more days. That decision came as medical marijuana activists rallied in downtown San Diego.
"State law needs to be respected. Medical Marijuana is and has been medicine. Dispensaries are a legal way, a safe way, a regulated way for patients to get their medicine," said Eugene Davidovich of Americans For Safe Access.
The kernel of the discrepancy is that the federal government does not permit the use of medical marijuana, does not permit the sale or distribution of marijuana. State law, however, allows for the use of medical marijuana and allows people to grow a small amount of medical marijuana and allows collectives to get together and distribute that marijuana.
"Hopefully 2012 is the year when we can say finally the federal government realized the medical benefits of marijuana," said Lance Rogers, an attorney who's worked on behalf of medical marijuana groups.
"Otherwise it doesn't matter what any state does, it doesn't matter what any city does, because the federal government can come in and arrest any medical marijuana patient at any time.
And that is precisely what John Redman the executive director of Californians For Drug Free Youth. He said the federal government should do just that because there is no law, state or national that allows marijuana to be sold.
"But there's a lot of question as to whether you can have a dispensary. Cause it never says in a proposition, or sb 420, or anyplace, that you can sell. have a storefront, and sell marijuana. That's not what anything says," said Redman.
The bankruptcy court only gave Mother Earth 45 days before the eviction order can be enforced. The US Attorney's office did not return calls asking for comment.
Video by Katie Euphrat