HIV patient Robin Bishop speaks at a rally in support of Berkeley Patients Group.
BERKELEY CA, May 8th. Medical cannabis advocates rallied today to protest the Obama administration’s latest assault on medical marijuana: the U.S. Dept of Justice has filed a property forfeiture lawsuit against the landlord of the East Bay’s oldest operating medical cannabis dispensary, the Berkeley Patient’s Group. Founded in 1999, the BPG is one of the most respected dispensaries in the Bay Area.
For years, BPG operated without complaint under city regulations. It was forced to move last year after receiving a warning from US Attorney Melinda Haag that it was supposedly operating too close to a school, although the school had never objected to BPG’s location. This year BPG moved to a new location even farther removed from schools, but Haag filed a forfeiture complaint without further warning.
At the rally, Berkeley City Councilman Darryl Moore, in whose district BPG operates, called them “outstanding assets to the community.” Also speaking in support of BPG were Berkeley city council members Kriss Worthington, Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguin, as well as Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
In addition, a representative from Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office voiced her support, as did a spokesperson for Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan. Statements in response to the action were read from state Board of Equalization member Betty Yee and state assembly members Loni Hancock, Tom Ammiano and Nancy Skinner.
California NORML director Dale Gieringer denounced the DOJ action as a disgraceful attack on legal access to marijuana under Prop. 215 by an out-of-control federal drug bureaucracy. “In this time of sequestration, the Boston bombings, and Newtown shootings, it’s an outrageous misuse of DOJ resources to perpetuate this misguided war on medical marijuana. BPG is one of the most respected dispensaries in the Bay Area with a long record of compliance with local regulations. Countless seriously ill East Bay clients rely on the BPG for their medicine. This DOJ lawsuit violates fundamental principles of due process, limited government, and personal freedom on which this nation was founded. We call on President Obama to honor the views of the great majority of Americans who support state marijuana laws and call off this outrageous federal attack on Americans’ access to medicine.” Gieringer called the White House hotline to complain 202-456-1111 (6am to 2pm PST).
BPG officials announced they intend to stay open and fight the forfeiture. “I’m looking at this as a death sentence, and praying this does not happen,” HIV patient Robin Bishop said at the rally.