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Feds to 150 LA Landlords: Evict or Else

Posted Jul 17, 2007 8:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A number of government officials in California, including at least one federal judge, have been openly unenthusiastic about helping the feds' wage an all-out war on drugs as far as medicinal marijuana—which is legal under state law—is concerned. So the feds are trying another tactic.

In a recent letter-writing blitz, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has threatened to jail Los Angeles landlords who rent to people who dispense medical marijuana. Some 150 have been warned that they risk arrest and confiscation of their properties if they continue to do so, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The DEA crackdown won't stop medicinal use of the drug, but will drive patients to take the risk of looking for it on the illegal market, predicts Dale Gieringer of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. The DEA letters, he says, likely will result in numerous evictions by landlords, followed by a few federal forfeiture prosecutions "to scare remaining landlords."

Courts have repeatedly found that authorities have the power to seize real estate and other property for drug law violations. However, California officials have tended to turn a blind eye to technical violations of what federal officials see as appropriate laws prohibiting pot, if marijuana is being grown or distributed for medicinal use.

Meanwhile, a San Francisco federal judge openly hostile to the prosecution imposed a one-day, time-served jail sentence on a self-proclaimed "Guru of Ganja" earlier this month, after he was convicted by a jury for growing medicinal marijuana in what the San Jose Mercury-News described as a "Kabuki-like" trial.

Ed Rosenthal, 62, was openly defiant of the law at sentencing, according to the article, and says he is proud of having grown some 96,000 pot plants to help those who need the drug, often to ease the pain of cancer treatment. At a pretrial hearing, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, he appeared dressed in a flowing blue robe emblazoned with a gold marijuana leaf and described the case as political. Though he escaped jail, he plans to appeal his conviction.

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