Supes Give Cannabis Gripes To Feds – February 22, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

WASHINGTON, .C.County supervisors have now met twice with federal Department of Justice (DOJ) officials and an ongoing dialogue about locally-unpopular enforcement actions against Medical Marijuana dispensaries has been established.

Humboldt Medical Supply, which set the standard for medical cannabis compliance in Arcata, was the first to close due to federal pressure. Meanwhile, a block away, the Sai Center cannabis shop continues to operate without a Conditional Use Permit in defiance of both the City of Arcata and federal government. KLH | Eye

County supervisors Mark Lovelace and Ryan Sundberg were in Washington, D.C. earlier this month to lobby for Klamath dam removal and their itinerary included a meeting with Alexa Chappell, the DOJ’s director of inter-governmental affairs.

Lovelace had a previous meeting with Melinda Haig, the locally-infamous Northern California district U.S. attorney who has spearheaded federal efforts to shut down dispensaries.

He said he’d told her that instead of going after “the folks that we’ve regulated to some level of acceptance,” her agency should work with local governments and focus on busting those who are causing serious problems.

In press conferences, Haig has said that dispensaries actually are causing serious problems, particularly larger ones and those within 1,000 feet of schools and parks.

Lovelace said Haig told him that from a federal perspective, there are no “good guys” because all marijuana production is illegal.

Lovelace said he argued that it makes more sense to prioritize enforcement.

The meeting with Chappell places the discussion at a higher level of the DOJ and Lovelace said he and Sundberg pitched arguments similar to the ones Haig heard.

“Chappell definitely seemed more receptive,” said Lovelace. “There was a suggestion that there will be some follow-up and at least we have some means for further contact at that level.”

The DOJ’s Northern California officials have threatened to take enforcement action against a range of people involved with medical marijuana dispensaries, including local officials who permit them. Did the two county supervisors make headway in preventing that?

“We made it clear that it’s not a helpful approach,” said Lovelace. He added, “It’s not a question of getting them to back off – it’s a question of getting them to refocus their efforts.”

He said Chappell was told that “we can be very helpful with going after the worst of the worst rather than the best of the best.”

In Humboldt, there was shock and disappointment when Arcata’s Humboldt Medical Supply dispensary closed after threatening letters from the feds were sent to the facility and its landlord.

A similar local reaction followed the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s raid of Mendocino County’s Northstone Organics collective, which was a leading participant in that county’s outdoor medical growing permit program.

The program was to be used as a model for Humboldt County’s outdoor growing ordinance but it’s been discontinued in response to the federal pressure.

Lovelace believes ongoing dialogue with federal officials can influence a change in their approach. “It’s a matter of slowly pushing the issue,” he said.

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