Marijuana Dispensary Takes on Uncle Sam
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A licensed medical marijuana provider sued the Justice Department and DEA, claiming that their illegal crusade threatens to cost thousands of patients their means to acquire the painkilling drug legally.
No Grey Sky and members of its dispensary co-op seek an injunction against the Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, whose agents raided the dispensary's downtown store this month.
No Grey Sky says it has been licensed by California to dispense cannabis, and that Holder is acting "in excess of the government's authority granted by the Controlled Substances Act" by threatening to shut it down.
No Grey Sky says its business is "vital to the safe and affordable distribution of medical cannabis to patients suffering from chronic and acute pain, life-threatening and severe illnesses, diseases, and injuries." And it says it has complied with all state laws concerning the distribution of the drug.
After voters in 1996 approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, Los Angeles established an ordinance to allow providers to distribute medical cannabis, according to the federal complaint.
No Grey Sky claims that medical marijuana dispensaries have operated lawfully and "transparently" to offer pain relief to thousands of patients, including cancer, AIDS and multiple-sclerosis sufferers, and that taxes from dispensaries have provided "billions of dollars in revenues."
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama repeatedly stated that dispensaries operating under state laws would be left alone, according to the complaint.
It claims Obama said in 2007: "'I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users; it's not a good use of our resources.'"
At first, the Obama administration and Department of Justice kept that promise, the complaint states, saying until recently that "patients, care givers, and those who complied with state law would be left alone."
But in 2010 Los Angeles proposed to license marijuana cultivation in the city, and the Department of Justice reversed its position, pursuing "a de facto ban on the collective and cooperative cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana," the complaint states.
"Plaintiff relied on those statements and the DOJ's policy of non-enforcement of conflicting federal law to support the growth of a local industry that is considered a national model for safe access. Now, over five years later, the federal government is attempting to act beyond its authority in seeking forfeiture of property connected with the plaintiff's dispensary," the complaint states.
No Grey Sky claims a shutdown will force patients, including the elderly and disabled, to buy marijuana illegally, and divert law enforcement resources away from more serious crimes.
Also named as defendants are Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michele Leonhart, and the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Andre Birotte Jr.
No Grey Sky is represented by Barry Fischer of Beverly Hills.