Landlords on the hook for legal trade
How would you feel if property you owned was taken away from you by the federal government because of something your tenant did? You’d probably be pretty pissed. Now, imagine that they were doing something legal in that state? How would you feel then?
According to Rueters, that’s a predicament many landlords in California may be faced with as Uncle Sam continues it’s assault on medical marijuana dispensaries in that state.
The authorities are pressuring landlords to shut down the shops or face possible loss of the real estate through the unconventional and low-key use of a civil statute designed primarily to seize the assets of drug-trafficking organizations.
While some states, including California, have legalized medical marijuana businesses, the federal government does not recognize their authority to do so and has targeted the shops for violations of the 40-year-old Controlled Substances Act.
The goal of the Justice Department’s effort, part of a crackdown announced last October, is to fight the medical marijuana industry, estimated at $1.7 billion annually, without confronting it head-on with costly and potentially embarrassing criminal prosecutions, industry sources and legal experts said.
This indirect strategy is reminiscent of the department’s attempts, which have met with only limited success, to sever the medical pot industry’s access to banking services. Many businesses have found ways around those restrictions, experts said.
“Filing asset-forfeiture lawsuits against these commercial properties is a very clever way to handle an otherwise horribly difficult and controversial situation,” said Greg Baldwin, a partner at the Miami law firm Holland & Knight and a former federal prosecutor.
“If you bring criminal charges against these medical marijuana businesses, the federal government gets pilloried in the press for attacking California law and sick people.”
Baldwin, who specializes in complex commercial litigation and white-collar criminal defense, added that with all four U.S. attorneys in California employing the same strategy, it is clearly official Justice Department policy rather than an anomaly involving rogue prosecutors.
This comes from the administration of a president who admits to smoking pot - killing the age old meme that smoking pot means you’ll accomplish nothing in your life. That’s the same president that Politico was referring to when they wrote the following back in April:
Back when he was running in 2008, Obama said he supported the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs” and that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws.” He didn’t go farther. But he also didn’t do anything to dissuade speculation among medical marijuana proponents who took this as a sign that the man headed to the Oval Office was on their side.
Well, it does appear that President Obama and his administration has no problem trying to circumvent state law after all.
The latest tactic is a result of a backlash against medical marijuana raids earlier during Obama’s time in the Oval Office. Despite his apparent agreement with the idea of medical marijuana, and his claim that he wouldn’t try to bypass state law - a claim that he never qualified as only applying to some state laws - he has been every bit the drug warrior that some on the left seemed to despise coming from the right.
Now, we see the latest tactic, one that seeks to make it impossible for a business to function. The fact that these businesses are thriving during a down economy is irrelevant apparently. After all, they don’t give him the warm and tingly feeling he craves.
Maybe he just needs to roll one up and take a couple hits. Maybe that would mellow him out some.