Feds Drop Case Against Berkeley Patients Group
On Oct. 31, the federal government ended its case against Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), California’s “longest continuously operating dispensary.”
In 2013, then-U.S. attorney Melinda Haag sent a letter to the BPG and its landlord warning that forfeiture proceedings would be forthcoming. The following year, the dispensary moved to a new location to avoid such actions. But Haag then tried to seize that property.
BPG has complied with city and state regulations and has enjoyed the support of key local officials. The City of Berkeley even filed claims to the property in hopes of helping the dispensary.
“I’m very pleased with the outcome of this case,” Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said in a statement. “BPG has been an invaluable asset to our community through its service to patients, its support to local non-profits, and by setting the gold standard for safe access.”
In 2014, Congress passed the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds against state-legal cannabis businesses. Lawmakers from California had been trying to get the amendment passed for years in hopes of protecting these businesses. The amendment must be passed every year.
According to BPG’s website, this legislation was key to its argument against the Feds: “The fact that the DOJ could no longer ignore BPG’s arguments illustrates the significant strides we have made in the war against drug policy reform.”
The case against BPG was similar to the one against Harborside Health Center; earlier this year, the Justice Department dropped a forfeiture suit against the Oakland dispensary after a four-year legal battle.
Both cases were brought by Haag, who worked with other U.S. attorneys and the DEA on one of the biggest crackdowns on medical cannabis in California history, which resulted in more than 500 dispensaries being shut down over an eight-month period from 2012 to 2013, reported the New York Times. Haag stepped down in 2015.
“This case has been putting a damper on our ability to serve our patients,” BPG spokesperson Victor Pinho told sfgate.com. “We’re very happy it’s over.”
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