Earlier this week, the U.S. Attorney’s office made an uncharacteristically reasonable move, and dropped all charges against several California landlords renting to dispensaries. As property forfeiture has remained a major risk of renting to dispensaries (and other medical marijuana related establishments), landlords in medical cannabis-permitting states are no doubt breathing a collective sign of relief, hoping this will set precedent across the nation.
Tony Jalali, a software engineer who invested in a $1.5 million piece of property in Anaheim as a means towards his retirement, was facing asset forfeiture for renting to a dispensary. His was the first case dropped. After an undercover DEA agent forged a medical recommendation and, posing as a legitimate patient, purchased $37 of cannabis from the dispensary renting from Tony, the U.S. threatened to seize his property, and gave him an ultimatum – he could lose the property, or agree to surprise inspections from the government, who would be checking to assure that he never rents to a dispensary again.
Represented by his attorney Matthew Pappas and the Institute for Justice, Tony refused the terms. Now, the case has been dropped with prejudice, which means they can’t threaten to seize his property again. “There will be no refiling of these actions,” said Pappas, speaking on the victory. The only condition to the case being dropped was that Tony not demand that the U.S. government pay his attorney fees.
Other landlords who had their case dropped the same day included Dr. Mark Burcaw, who was renting to a dispensary in Santa Ana, Walter and Diane Botsch, who were renting to a dispensary in Eagle Rock (LA), and Tom Woo, who was also renting to a dispensary in So-Cal.
“It’s pretty amazing for them to come up and dismiss the cases, pretty unusual,” Pappas said, while offering his thoughts on how this is a direct result of the Obama administration’s shifting policy on marijuana. “I think it’s a major victory for patients, for citizens in general.”
While cannabis advocates across the country will need to continue the fight for legalization (both medical and recreational), and legitimization, this is most definitely a victory in the war against the war on cannabis.