Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

Dispensing with the DOJ


The future site of Arcata's Medical Marijuana Innovation Zone. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • The future site of Arcata's Medical Marijuana Innovation Zone.

One medical marijuana dispensary recently scored a significant court victory that could ease federal meddling in similar operations statewide.

The Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which operated out of Fairfax and was reportedly the oldest legal dispensary in the state, has been closed since 2011, when U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag won an injunction against its owner, Lynette Shaw.

Since then, a Congressional act prohibited the U.S. Justice Department from spending money to prevent the implementation of medical marijuana laws. But prosecutors continued to target dispensaries in California, choosing to interpret the law in a way that angered its authors, who called for the DOJ to stop prosecuting patients and providers.

Finally, on Oct. 19, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled in Shaw's favor, writing that the "plain reading" of the congressional law "forbids the Department of Justice from enforcing this injunction."

Shaw, who said she's been unemployed since the dispensary closed, is crowdfunding to reopen the Marina Alliance for Medical Marijuana. Other dispensaries in the Bay Area facing forfeiture actions are expected to benefit from the ruling, according to attorneys quoted in the SFGate, and the ruling is expected to set a precedent that will once and for all end federal prosecution of medical marijuana businesses operating in accordance with state law.

"We won the war," Shaw told SFGate. "And I'm the first POW to be released."

The SF Chronicle is reporting that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is likely to step away from his push to legalize recreational marijuana in California, an effort he's led for the last year or so, convening stakeholders across the state to develop the recommendations for legalization.

That's not to say Newsom has flipped: He told the Chronicle he still supports legalization. But Newsom recently (and rather raucously) announced he will back a gun control initiative in 2016, an issue that will likely take up all of his time and political spending power.

While Newsom's leadership on the marijuana blue ribbon panel is done (a report was issued in July), the SF Weekly thinks that his departure from the cannabis fight could limit the probability of legalization. The paper reported that California's major marijuana advocates don't have nearly the funding necessary to pass an initiative, and donors aren't stepping forward. Meanwhile, multiple groups are moving forward on separate initiatives, which some say could blow the chance of any of them being passed by California voters.

Arcata's medical marijuana innovation zone has been approved by a unanimous vote of the city council, meaning medical marijuana businesses will be permitted to set up shop in the former Humboldt Flakeboard plant on West End Road, once repairs are made to the facility.

The council had originally identified three parcels along West End Road as potential sites for the special zoning but, following complaints from neighboring businesses and residents at the Oct. 7 meeting, the council scaled the area back to the Flakeboard site. Public concern, as reported by the Mad River Union and Lost Coast Outpost, ranged from businesses frustrated about exclusion from the zoning to neighbors worried about smells and increased crime in the area. Moved by the input, the council planned an Oct. 28 community meeting to discuss the zone.

Details of the zoning — including licensing requirements — are being worked out by staff and will be presented at a future meeting.

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