Last week was one of the the darkest for the medical marijuana movement, with the federal Justice Department picking two of San Francisco's best-known and best-behaving licensed medical cannabis dispensaries for closure. This came mere weeks after U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag moved to close Harborside Health Center -- the nation's biggest pot club and Oakland's second-biggest taxpayer.
Could things get much worse? Well, sure -- Haag could close all of San Francisco's dispensaries, as she is rumored to be considering to do by Christmas, according to sources.
Enter Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Oakland Democrat who is mad as hell. She introduced legislation in Washington that would halt Haag and her three California counterparts in their tracks.
Lee on Thursday introduced a bill that would prohibit the Justice
Department from using asset forfeiture laws against the landlords of
state-legal medical marijuana clubs, according to Americans for Safe
The bill would remove from Haag's arsenal her most reliable
weapon -- shutting down clubs with nothing more than a letter sent via
certified mail. It would also force her to escalate or abandon the war on those pot patients who suffer from AIDS, cancer, or chronic pain.
The forfeiture laws
employed by Haag and her counterparts in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and
San Diego were crafted in the 1980s to punish narcotics traffickers,
but have been handy tools in the statewide crackdown on medical
marijuana,which began last fall.
About a dozen dispensaries have
been shut down in the Bay Area since Oct. 7, 2011, and "hundreds" more
across the state have moved voluntarily or been evicted by landlords,
according to ASA.
In very limited public
comments made since the crackdown began, Haag has said that clubs are being targeted for vague and inconsistent reasons: They're too close to
kids, they're violating some unspecified part of state law, or, in, Harborside's
case, they're simply too big.
Lee's bill, H.R. 6335, is called the Medical
Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act. It would prohibit
the feds from using asset forfeiture proceedings to threaten,
intimidate, or otherwise close state-legal cannabis
dispensaries, and "begin to align federal law to
states' laws that allow for safe access to medical marijuana," she said
in a statement.
Will it be too little, too late? Or will it even
make it out of committee? In any case, Lee's is the first direct
reaction by a member of the federal government to the Justice
Department's arbitrary crackdowns.