by David Downs
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates took local U.S. Attorney (and rumored Berkeley resident) Melinda Haag to task Wednesday for harassing Berkeley Patients Group. The popular, permitted medical cannabis dispensary in Berkeley faces federal forfeiture efforts from Haag yet again, leading to a press conference yesterday where town leaders defended the Better Business Bureau member and ripped on the U.S. Attorney.
Haag said she is going after BPG because preschools exist in the area of the dispensary at 2366 San Pablo Ave. She said in statement: “The marijuana industry has caused significant public health and safety problems in rural communities, urban centers and schools in the Northern District of California. Because some believe marijuana has medicinal value, however, we continue to take a measured approach and have only pursued asset forfeiture actions with respect to marijuana retail sales operations very near schools, parks or playgrounds, at the request of local law enforcement, or in one case, because of the sheer size of its distribution operations."
"There are no schools around there," Bates said at the conference (here's video from Tom Angell). He said BPG has had "virtually no problems with law enforcement."
"It seems to me Attorney General [Eric Holder] has really messed up [going after BPG]," Bates said. "He needs to say 'stop this'."
Haag's actions are "nothing short of murderous," said one elderly female AIDS patient at the press conference.
Councilmember Darryl Moore said he was proud to have BPG in his district. "To see the atrocities of our Department of Justice, it's just outlandish and needs to be stopped."
BPG executive Sean Luse said the club is reviewing and evaluating their legal options and said they intend to challenge Haag's efforts.
The press conference occurred amid an outpouring of national support for one of the oldest most respected dispensaries in the state.
Steph Sherer, executive with advocacy group Americans for Safe Access stated, "This lawsuit is not about profiteering or violating state law; it's a mean, vindictive move aimed at shutting down one of the oldest and well-respected dispensaries in the country."
The National Cannabis Industry Association president Aaron Smith said the, "U.S. Attorney Haag's views on marijuana policy are out of step with those of the vast majority of voters in her state, and her office is acting in direct conflict with the Department of Justice’s 2009 Ogden Memo, which set a policy to respect state law in matters involving medical cannabis. It's high time for the Obama Administration to put a stop to this rogue activity and review all pending federal medical marijuana cases for compliance with stated administration policy. One has no choice but to question DOJ's allegiances when tax dollars are being used to close down an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau to further the economic interests of criminal drug dealers and cartels."
BPG remains open today with some wonderful stock of All-Star Jack Frost.