City of Berkeley Fights Federal Action to Seize Property of City’s Largest Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Press Release July 2, 2013
Media Contact

<p>Contact: Tony Newman&nbsp; 646-335-5384 or Tamar Todd 510-593-4908</p>

BERKELEY, CA – The City of Berkeley filed a claim Wednesday in the action brought by the federal government in May to seize the property used by Berkeley Patients Group at 2366 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, California.  Berkeley Patients Group has been providing medical marijuana to patients within the City since 1999.  It is in full compliance with the City of Berkeley’s medical marijuana ordinance, regulations, and zoning laws.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California has used federal asset forfeiture laws to target and close numerous medical marijuana dispensaries, even when those dispensaries have long track records of working with the cities in which they are located, responsibly providing medical marijuana to patients, and complying with state and local law.

The city’s claim was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In its claim, the City asserts that the closure of Berkeley Patients Group will harm the City through the loss of substantial revenue.  Berkeley Patients Group has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the City in taxes over the years.  The federal government’s action also undermines the City’s comprehensive plan to regulate and control medical marijuana, which was designed and implemented to positively impact the health and well-being of all Berkeley residents and to which the City has devoted a significant amount of time and resources.  The claim, filed on July 3, states that the closure of Berkeley Patients Group will likely lead to an increased number of unregulated, unpermitted dispensaries and an increased number of illicit marijuana sales on the Berkeley streets, negatively impacting Berkeley neighborhoods and the business community.

Mayor Tom Bates states:  “It is time for the federal government to wake up and stop these asset forfeiture actions.  Berkeley Patients Group has complied with the rules and caused no problems in the City.  The federal government should not use its scarce resources to harass local law-abiding businesses.”

A resolution adopted by the City on May 21st opposing the forfeiture action states that Berkeley Patients Group has “contributed significantly to our community, providing good jobs and paying millions of dollars in taxes.  They have improved the lives and assisted the end-of-life transitions of thousands of patients.  They have been active supporters of dozens of Berkeley community organizations.”

The City of Berkeley is represented by the Drug Policy Alliance, a national nonprofit working to reform drug laws.  Drug Policy Alliance Senior Staff Attorney Tamar Todd states: “Medical marijuana is legal under California law.  The federal government, against the wishes of the community, is undermining Berkeley’s concerted efforts to control and regulate medical marijuana distribution within its borders.  The U.S Attorney’s action harms patients, the community, and the City — and benefits no one.   It is pure folly; sadly, it is also deeply destructive folly.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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