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Bill Introduced To Protect Landlords Of Marijuana Dispensaries


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Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Seven Initial Co-Sponsors Introduce HR 6335 to Stop Unfair Land Grabs by DOJ


Late on Thursday, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and seven initial co-sponsors introduced HR 6335, the States' Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, in an attempt to stop the seizure of property from landlords of state law-compliant medical marijuana businesses. The introduction of HR 6335 comes less than a month after U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag served an asset forfeiture lawsuit against the landlord of Harborside, a medical marijuana dispensary in Rep. Lee's district of Oakland.


The Justice Department action was opposed by Rep. Lee, but it also sparked an outcry from local and state officials, including city council members, the Oakland City Attorney, and the Board of Equalization.


"Yesterday, I introduced legislation to urge the Administration and the Congress to begin to align federal law to states' laws that allow for safe access to medical marijuana for patients," said Congresswoman Lee. "As a long-time supporter of the rights of patients to have safe and legal access to medicine that has been recommended to them by their doctors, this bill will provide clarification to California businesses and security for California patients.



Steph Sherer, Americans for Safe Access: "Property owners have become the most recent victims in the Justice Department's escalating attack on medical marijuana"

"The people of California have made it legal for patients to have safe access to medicinal marijuana and, as a result, thousands of small business owners have invested millions of dollars in building their companies, creating jobs, and paying their taxes," Rep. Lee said. "We should be protecting and implementing the will of voters, not undermining our democracy by prosecuting small business owners who pay taxes and comply with the laws of their states in providing medicine to patients in need."


For more than a year, the Justice Department has been threatening the landlords of state law-compliant medical marijuana dispensaries with asset forfeiture proceedings if they don't promptly evict their tenants. More than 300 such letters have been sent to property owners across California as well as in Colorado and other medical marijuana states.


Though the number of actual prosecutions is far fewer, the intimidation caused by the threats has resulted in the closure of more than 400 dispensaries in California.


"Property owners have become the most recent victims in the Justice Department's escalating attack on medical marijuana," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group. "However, let us not forget that with the closure of these dispensaries, thousands of patients are prevented from safely obtaining a medication that has already been deemed legal to use with a physician's approval."


HR 6335 will prohibit the federal government from using the civil asset forfeiture statue -- 21 U.S.C. 881(7) -- to go after real property owners if their tenants are in compliance with state medical marijuana law. At the same time, the new law would not prevent the Justice Department from using the civil asset forfeiture statue against real property owners in connection with conduct not sanctioned by state law.


While property owners have an opportunity to retrieve seized property in civil court, they are not afforded many of the constitutional rights granted to criminal defendants, such as the right to an attorney and a jury trial. In addition, the burden of proof is on the property owner to show their innocence rather than the government having to prove their guilt.


In addition to seeking the Harborside property, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has threatened similar action against a number of Bay Area property owners. Just in San Francisco alone, nine city-permitted dispensaries have been shut down in the past few months.


This week, city and state officials joined a theatrical but somber funeral procession to Haag's office in order to draw attention to the latest two facilities -- HopeNet and Vapor Room -- forced to close due to threatening letters sent by Haag to their landlords.


About 100 million people -- one in three Americans -- live in states with medical marijuana laws. Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.


More Information


Copy of HR 6335 [PDF]


ASA Fact Sheet on Asset Forfeiture and HR 6335 [PDF]



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I asked my congressman Jeff Dunham to support this legislation and two others. The reply was the same for all three. Here is his response:



August 9, 2012




Dear Danielshemp,


Thankyou for contacting me about the use of marijuana by adults. It is a pleasure to hear from you on thisimportant issue.


Drugtrafficking of marijuana is a growing problem in California's Central Valley. Marijuana is cultivatedin the remote areas of the Valley and especially in the national forestland, over which my Committee,House Natural Resources, has jurisdiction. Law enforcement in the Valley has been working with the DrugEnforcement Agency and other federal agencies to discover and halt the sale of illegal marijuana. We must ensure this illegal activity is eradicated and cleaned up. As a matter of public health and publicsafety, I am opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana.


OnJune 23, 2011, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced H.R. 2306, the "Ending Federal MarijuanaProhibition Act." This bill decriminalizes the personal use of marijuana by adults. If passed, possessionof up to 100 grams of marijuana would be assumed as personal use, and would be legal. Additionally, thenot-for-profit sale of up to one ounce would be legal. Finally, the bill continues the ban on publicmarijuana usage, and a fine of up to $100 can be imposed for violations of the public use ban.


Additionally,on July 17, 2012, Representative Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6134, the Truth in Trials Act. Thisbill provides an affirmative defense for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws ofthe various States.


Ibelieve legalizing drugs, including marijuana, is a detriment to society and will endanger future generations.There is consistent empirical evidence that shows drug legalization does not curb demand problems. Infact, drug abuse rates tend to increase when drugs are legalized. Furthermore, evidence shows that crimerates dramatically increase when drugs are legalized. Finally, legalizing marijuana sends the signalto people that marijuana use is okay as it establishes the condition for its increased general use. Forthese reasons, I do not support the legalization of marijuana and will work with law enforcement in theCentral Valley to curb illegal drug activity of every kind.


Onceagain, thank you for contacting me. I encourage you to stay up to date with my activity in Washington,D.C., and in California's 19th District on my website, www.denham.house.gov,and on my social media sites: @RepJeffDenhamon Twitter and RepresentativeJeff Denham on Facebook.












United States Representative

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