One of President Obama’s most obvious broken promises has been on the issue of federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states where medical marijuana is legal. Despite saying repeatedly that he would shift resources against such enforcement, prosecutions have actually increased. And now there’s a new crackdown making it even worse.
In several West Coast cities, federal officials are initiating a new round of crackdowns against dispensaries that are seemingly complying with state medical marijuana law. In Seattle, 11 dispensaries received shutdown warnings. In San Francisco, almost half of the city’s small number of state-licensed dispensaries received similar warnings. And in neighboring cities like San Jose, several others were warned.
The cease-and-desist letters from the Drug Enforcement Administration warn harsh federal punishment, including as much as 40 years in jail even for landlords that rent to marijuana dispensaries. They also warn that they if properties do not cease marijuana activity within 30 days, the agency will pursue what’s known as civil forfeiture, in which the federal government threatens to seize the facility and other assets if the marijuana business continues. For those who are renting space, this means the landlord is effectively asked to evict its marijuana tenant — a process that has proved difficult, as state and federal courts handling eviction proceedings resist this federal intervention.
One has to wonder how bad it’s going to get in Colorado and Washington, where they didn’t just legalize medical marijuana but decriminalized it entirely. The use of the asset forfeiture laws against landlords who rent property to dispensaries that are following state law is absolutely appalling, but it’s hardly surprising. The Obama administration’s record on civil liberties has been atrocious.