The USA TODAY recently reported that the U.S. Justice Department is unleashing a potent new weapon in its battle against California's hundreds of medical pot clinics, threatening landlords with arrest and property seizures for renting to tenants who flout federal drug laws.
Intensifying its crackdown on pot sales that are legal under California law but illegal under U.S. law, agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency executed search warrants Wednesday in raids on 10 marijuana dispensaries across Los Angeles. As agents were moving in, Los Angeles' City Council voted 11-0 to tentatively approve a one-year moratorium on more medical marijuana stores, which have exploded in number in the past two years. Federal officials estimate there are 400 storefront and office operations selling medical marijuana in Los Angeles and L.A. County, up from 20 two years ago and more than double the number at the start of the year, DEA Special Agent Sarah Pullen says. Law enforcement officials contend the sales have become a source for recreational pot users.
The most serious threat to California's voter-approved pot sales came in a letter last week from the DEA to 150 property owners or managers informing them that a tenant is operating a marijuana dispensary on the property in violation of federal law. The letter warns that California's pot law, approved as Proposition 215 a decade ago, "is not a defense to this crime or to the seizure of the property." Landlords, the DEA warned, could lose their buildings and land and face felonies with 20-year prison sentences.
"It scared the hell out of my client," said Barry Parker, attorney for property owner Kash Holdings LLC. It rents space to Karma Collective. As a result of the DEA notice, Parker said Karma Collective had agreed to close and vacate its space within a month. He predicted many other landlords would evict. "It's just too risky a situation for a landlord to take on, at the same time potentially costly," he said.
Criminal Law Blog's lawyer, firm parter David Kestenbaum, is the criminal attorney for Karma Collective. He was interviewed by the USA Today. He explained that that landlords who get such a letter have no choice but to evict pot-selling tenants: "It will effectively, in my opinion, shut down the clinics that are open and force patients
Tagged as: drug crimes defense
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