In 2005 and 2006 in Northern and Southern California, the DEA under the Bush Administration was swarming medical marijuana dispensaries that were operating quasi-legally (as legally as they could) under California State Law, specifically The Compassionate Use Act, arguably laws written very poorly. The moment the SCOTUS reached a decision in Reich v. Gonzales, 21 USC 801 the doors to the largest chain of dispensaries throughout the State and the largest edibles manufacturer (our clients) were knocked down and every asset seized in what is called a civil forfeiture action. A civil forfeiture action is a legal tool that allows law enforcement officials to seize property that they assert has been involved in certain criminal activity. This seizure of property includes cash direct from bank accounts. Businesses operating under color of State Laws but impermissible under federal law are subject to this action and medical marijuana businesses operating under the Compassionate Use Act of California were surprised when their money disappeared from their operating accounts and they were left with a subpoena and civil citation they could not defend against, U.S. v. $124,000.00. This taking was common and caused additional lawsuits by employees who were not paid for work they had provided for their employer, now sitting in jail on federal drug charges. Class actions ensued against these employers because often the dispensaries had sufficient employees to trigger what amounted to a factory shut down within less than proper notice required by state employment laws. With all operating expenses seized there is often no way to pay payroll and of course no way to pay for necessary services or expenses.
As civil counsel for both Compassionate Caregivers and Beyond Bomb edibles we turned over representation to criminal counsel in 2006 following the raids of each establishment. Shefman Law representing Compassionate Caregivers Inc. The police came in and arrested owners, managers, and employees sometimes issuing up to five year sentences. This enraged the medical marijuana community. A medical marijuana dispensary was turned into a “drug ring” by DEA accounts: DEA page on Compassionate Caregivers, Inc. The same type of reporting by the DEA of Kenneth Affolter’s Beyond Bomb business: DEA page on Beyond Bomb. Suggested that business was focused on selling to children despite the products only being available in dispensaries subject to the Compassionate Use Act and a doctor’s recommendation and patient ID card. Though, the community that supported over 30 dispensaries in San Francisco at the time and countless dispensaries in Los Angeles had a different account, here is one from the SF Gate.
Since then five states have provided for the legalization of marijuana and have operated smoothly under the Obama Administration. But, what lies ahead? The Texas legislature once again introduced a bill into the session that went nowhere, indicating legislative intolerance of alternative medicine, or perhaps more indicative of the lobbyists for the larger pharmaceutical company’s intolerance for competition from medical marijuana operating within the State.
Are you registered to vote? If you are reading this my guess is medical marijuana is a concern for you? If so, register to vote. Each of the business that are operating in California and Colorado and within whatever bounds the states they exist within allow, are not secure under a hostile federal government. If Scott Walker or another Bush become the new POTUS, the 2005-2006 behavior of the DEA and the IRS will be repeated and the legitimate businesses now operating will be reduced to a page of DEA allegations of organized drug criminals.