U.S. Attorney: Lawsuits Against Pot Clubs Have Widespread Public Support
By Doug Oakley Staff Writer Bay Area News Group firstname.lastname@example.org
BERKELEY -- The U.S. attorney for the northern district of California defended her lawsuits against landlords of medical marijuana outlets one day after this city's largest provider revealed its landlord is being targeted in a drug asset forfeiture suit.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed suit May 2 seeking forfeiture of land and buildings owned by Nahla Droubi, of Moraga, who is the landlord of Berkeley Patients Group on San Pablo Avenue.
The suit says the dispensary is illegally distributing drugs and the property can be seized.
Haag defended the suit and others like it on the same day Berkeley politicians held a news conference to complain about it.
In a statement Haag said lawsuits against landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries and letters threatening the landlords have been reasonable and are supported by educators, addiction specialists, police officers, clergy, parents and others who are "negatively affected by marijuana."
"The marijuana industry has caused significant public health and safety problems in rural communities, urban centers and schools in the Northern District of California," Haag said. "Because some believe marijuana has medicinal value, however, we continue to take a measured approach and have only pursued asset forfeiture actions with respect to marijuana retail sales operations very near schools, parks or playgrounds, at the request of local law enforcement, or in one case, because of the sheer size of its distribution operations."
Haag also said that Droubi had fair warning before Berkeley Patients Group reopened at its new location in December. Her office notified Droubi that Berkeley Patients Group would be moving into a neighborhood with two preschools nearby and that the "planned use of the property would violate federal law."
At a news conference on the steps of the City Council chambers, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said the suit and others like it should stop.
"I think it's time for the federal government, the president and the attorney general to wake up and stop these kinds of actions," Bates said. "Here is a group of people who have played by the rules and have had no problems in the city with the way they or their patients conduct themselves."
Councilmen Laurie Capitelli echoed Bates by saying the federal government "needs to find something better to do than harass local law-abiding businesses."
Droubi has remained silent since the suit was filed. She did not return phone calls seeking comment on the suit, did not attend the news conference and has not spoken directly to her tenant, said Sean Luse, chief operating officer of Berkeley Patients Group.
Berkeley Patients Group attorney Henry Wykowski said the dispensary will remain open while it fights the lawsuit against their landlord.
"We are not going to close down, and we are not going to run away," Wykowski said. "Berkeley Patients Group will not abandon its patients or the principles on which it was founded."