By: Eugene Davidovich
San Diego, CA -- On Wednesday July 25 in the struggle for safe access, patients in San Diego scored a major, yet short-term victory. The most recent attempt by US Attorney Laura Duffy to shut down the sole Sheriff permitted medical marijuana co-operative was stalled when the co-op filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Around 1pm on Wednesday, Sheriff Deputies arrived at the co-op to change the locks and were shocked when the co-op presented bankruptcy paperwork which prevented the deputies from shutting the place down.
A rapid response team from San Diego Americans for Safe Access was dispatched to the coop to document the Sheriff interaction:
All day there were news trucks in front of the co-op doing interviews with patients as well as reporters calling on the DEA, the Sheriff and the County Supervisors who crafted the licensing compliance protocol the co-op followed.
In an email sent to CityBeat, Jan Caldwell, a spokesperson for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department commented on today’s events:
The only medical marijuana collective licensed by the County of San Diego "Mother Earth Alternative Healing," in unincorporated El Cajon was to be officially been closed today after a year of operation. The closure was the result of the action taken by the U.S. Attorney to go after property owners who were renting/leasing to dispensary operators. The eviction was a ten-month process that included an unlawful detainer filing and many requests for a stay of execution by Mother Earth operators.
As we arrived to serve the eviction notice, Mother Earth advised they have filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. This is a civil matter between the business and the landlord. If/when their doors open, their permit – issued by the Sheriff's Department – is valid.
US attorney Laura Duffy has successfully shut down over two hundred dispensaries in the City of San Diego, and now has her sight on Mother Earth Alternative Healing- the only Sheriff permitted medical marijuana dispensary in the county and one in full compliance with all state and local laws.
After months of threats by Duffy against the landlord and multiple legal battles to stay the eviction, the co-op lost their final legal challenge last week. Shortly thereafter they received an eviction notice which demanded they vacate the property by Wed, July 25 when Sheriff’s deputies were scheduled to replace the locks.
Hours before deputies were to chain the place down the co-op filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and immediately received notice from the courts that they could remain open for an additional 30-45 days.
Although the stay is temporary and the fight to stay open continues, starting Thursday the co-op will re-open to dispense medicine to their members.
In addition to these attacks on landowners, Duffy is also threatening lawmakers with federal prosecution for simply doing their job; writing laws that regulate safe access for patients.
When the City Council of Imperial Beach and several other municipalities took up the issue of regulating dispensaries last week, Duffy’s office rushed to issue a statement on July 17, saying, "City employees who conduct activities mandated by the ordinance are not immune from liability under the (Controlled Substances Act). The United States Attorney's Office will evaluate all potential civil and criminal enforcement actions on a case-by-case basis in light of the priorities of the Department of Justice and the (U.S. Attorney's Office's) available resources."
Clearly, Duffy has gone against the position of her superiors. President Obama promised not to target those in compliance with state law, and in fact just weeks ago Attorney General Eric Holder testified before Congress that Department of Justice would only target enforcement action against medical marijuana organizations operating ‘out of conformity with state law.’ US Attorney Laura Duffy’s actions clearly prove otherwise.
While deputies from the Sheriff’s department were on their way to shut the co-op down, advocates from the medical marijuana community organized by Canvass for a Cause and San Diego Americans for Safe Access were rallying against the federal attacks and the attempted closure in front of Duffy’s office at the Federal Courthouse downtown San Diego.
The rally started with several speakers including Lance Rogers one of the attorneys representing the co-op. Rogers spoke about the struggles they went through coming into compliance with the extremely restrictive ordinance the Board of Supervisors crafted, as well as the transparency with which the co-op operates. After the speakers, over fifty patients and concerned citizens chanted slogans in support of safe access.
‘When medical cannabis is under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!’ as well as other chants could be heard throughout the surrounding areas and reportedly directly inside of Duffy’s office.
Towards the end of the rally when one of the representatives from the co-op was informed the Sheriff accepted the bankruptcy paperwork she immediately made an announcement to the crowd which roared with cheers and applause.
Later in the day, very much in line with her bullying tactics, Duffy rushed to weigh in, and issued a statement to KUSI News:
“The stay may delay the eviction of Mother Earth by its landlord, but it does not allow Mother Earth to operate a commercial marijuana business in violation of federal law. Nor does it shield it from criminal liability.”
With that statement, perhaps Duffy is not threatening but actually coming around, after all she must know co-op in question is not a commercial marijuana business, rather a fully licensed, state compliant, closed circuit, non-profit medical marijuana co-operative.
An interesting ending to a tough day filled with emotion, fear and hope, ultimately bringing us a step closer to permanent safe access for patients in San Diego.