Major Berkeley medical cannabis dispensary Berkeley Patients Group notched another win against federal authorities in court Friday when a Federal judge sided with the City of Berkeley in its efforts to keep the dispensary open.
The dispensary will now remain open while the courts decide whether the City of Berkeley has the legal standing to defend the club in court against federal prosecutors.
In May 2013, United States Attorney Melinda Haag moved to seize the state’s oldest, most respected legal cannabis dispensary as part of a broad crackdown on state-legal canna-businesses. But the property owner and the City of Berkeley sued to block the forfeiture. The City argues that it would suffer irreparable harm if the case were allowed to proceed to conclusion without City participation.
In the Fall, a judge dismissed Berkeley’s claim, saying it had no standing in the case. But Berkeley appealed, and sought a stay of forfeiture pending the outcome of the appeal.
During Friday’s hearing, prosecutors argued against the stay in favor of seizing BPG, but Judge Jon S. Tigar rejected prosecution’s arguments, writing that higher courts could still rule the City of Berkeley has standing and that “district courts should recognize the public interest reflected in a properly enacted local ordinance.”
All the key factors in the case support a stay, Judge Tigar wrote, and “Berkeley’s Motion to Stay is granted.”
The case will remain on hold until the Ninth Circuit decides whether Berkeley has standing.
BPG’s leadership does not understand why U.S. Attorney Haag is defying orders from the White House as well as Congressional law mandating she do something more useful with her time and resources.
“We’re still surprised given the recent change in the climate surrounding medical cannabis in California that the attorney is being relentless in her fight,” said Victor Pinho, for BPG. “We are emboldened by this judgment and we reaffirm our commitment to our patients and reaffirm our commitment to fighting the good cause of making sure every one who needs access has proper access.”
“We are hopeful that Congress will act quickly to resolve the split between state and Federal marijuana laws by passing bills like Congresswoman Lee’s proposed H.R. 262″ said Tim Schick, Berkeley Patients Group’s Executive Director, referencing the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act introduced on January 9. “In the meantime,” he added, “we look forward to continuing to serve our local patient population.”
BPG was founded in 1999, and became an international model for safe access to medical cannabis. The City of Berkeley celebrated BPG Day in 2009 and again in 2014. Ms. Haag said she was using her discretion to seize BPG because it was too close to a pre-school. Mayor Tom Bates disputes that claim.