FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — NOVEMBER 1, 2016
Federal Court Win for Marijuana Dispensary Propels Industry Into Legalization Vote
BERKELEY, CA — One week before California voters decide on Proposition 64, a ballot initiative for full legalization, the federal government has dismissed an onerous civil asset forfeiture case that sought to shutter Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), the longest continuously operating medical cannabis dispensary in the country.
The filing by the Northern District of California U.S. Attorney on October 31, 2016, is an important signal that the regulated cannabis industry, set for exponential growth, will not encounter the same type of federal interference that BPG has endured.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee called the decision, “A victory for health care access.”
“For decades Berkeley Patients Group has helped ensure that members of our community can access their medicine. It’s past time for the federal government to stop standing between these patients and their medicine,” said Congresswoman Lee.
In May 2013, the federal government initiated a forfeiture action against the property leased by BPG. This was an attempt by then-U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag to close dispensaries across Northern California by seizing the property on which they operated. This was despite BPG meticulously operating under all state and city regulations.
“We knew from the very beginning that the outcome of this case would impact the community-at-large. Our activist roots prompted us to stand up to this challenge from the federal government,” says BPG Director Etienne Fontan.
Lara DeCaro, BPG’s outside general counsel, explained that years of effort and professional teamwork went into the tense showdown with the federal government.
“When the forfeiture was filed, most of our peers advised us to walk away; we decided to fight and continue providing safe, reliable access for our patients,” said DeCaro.
The federal government initially attempted to dismiss the action without prejudice, which BPG opposed. Henry Wykowski, BPG’s lead co-counsel for the forfeiture proceeding, who successfully represented claimants in the three other dispensary forfeiture actions in the Bay area stressed the importance of requiring that any dismissal be with prejudice. “There is no reason BPG should be treated differently than Harborside. BPG is entitled to a dismissal with prejudice thereby ending this action forever and would not accept anything less,” said Wykowski.
He added, “I am happy that all of the forfeiture cases filed by the US Attorney in the Northern District of California have now been resolved favorably and am proud to have been counsel for the dispensaries.”
David Tillotson of Flynn Riley Bailey & Pasek, the attorney representing the landowner, was instrumental in achieving this result and emphasized that his client was also “not willing to bow to federal pressure.”
BPG has a legacy of being a model medical cannabis dispensary and a best-practice leader in California. The City has twice declared October 31 – the company anniversary – to be “Berkeley Patients Group Day” and BPG is the honored recipient of a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.
“Compassion and sensibility prevailed,” said Victor Pinho, BPG Communications Director.
“We share this victory with the entire California medical cannabis community and the patients we’ve had the privilege of serving over the past 17 years.
Link to case history and court filing: https://goo.gl/1t0JqM
Located at 2366 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, California the Berkeley Patients Group dispensary is open every day from 9 am to 9 pm.