Seizure of Medical Pot Dispensary Stayed

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge stayed a forfeiture action by the United States against a licensed Berkeley medical marijuana dispensary, pending Berkeley’s appeal to the 9th Circuit.
     The government sought to shut down Berkeley Patients Group in May 2013. The dispensary, its landlord Nahla Droubi and the city of Berkeley challenged the forfeiture.
     In March 2014 the court struck Berkeley from the action for lack of standing, but the city appealed to the 9th Circuit, asserting that its interest in dispensary-generated tax revenue and its ability to regulate dispensaries within its jurisdiction gave it a stake in the case.
     U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar on Feb. 6 granted Berkeley’s motion to stay the forfeiture until the 9th Circuit resolves the appeal.
     The case is similar to an attempted government seizure of another dispensary in the East Bay – Oakland’s Harborside Health Center – which resulted in Oakland taking the unusual step of suing the federal government.
     Henry Wykowski, counsel for Berkeley Patients Group, told Courthouse News in an email that the dispensary is “gratified that the trial court recognized the wisdom of staying the case so the 9th Circuit will have the ability to decide the important question of whether the municipality where a medical cannabis dispensary is located should have standing to protect the dispensary from federal government interference.”
     Victor Pinho, communications director for the dispensary, said in a telephone interview that Tigar’s order was “a small victory in a much greater battle.”
     “Berkeley Patients Group is excited to continue to carry forward its mission of providing safe access to quality medicine for patients who need it,” Pinho said.
     The dispensary’s executive director Tim Schick said that the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, introduced in Congress on Jan. 9, could provide clarity on medical marijuana jurisdiction.
     “We are hopeful that Congress will act quickly to resolve the split between state and federal marijuana laws,” Schick said in a statement.

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