Despite the fact that public support for medical marijuana is currently at all-time high, and may be legal in up to 24 states and the District of Columbia by the end of this year, the Department of Justice continues to crack down on medical marijuana on the federal level.
The DOJ has been targeting the landlords of medical marijuana shops in California as an indirect way to tamp down medical marijuana use. Although medical marijuana is legally under California state law, it is still illegal under federal law.
Federal prosecutors are pressuring landlords to either shut down their shops or risk losing their property under a civil statute originally designed to allow the government to seize drug-trafficking organizations’ assets. Greg Baldwin, a former federal prosecutor specializing in white-collar criminal defense, explains the logic behind the DOJ’s indirect approach:
BALDWIN: Filing asset-forfeiture lawsuits against these commercial properties is a very clever way to handle an otherwise horribly difficult and controversial situation. If you bring criminal charges against these medical marijuana businesses, the federal government gets pilloried in the press for attacking California law and sick people.
Although the DOJ is attempting a slick PR move, the intentions are clear. The Obama Administration has continued to restrict medical marijuana despite the fact that 3/4 of the American public believes the federal government should back off enforcement against medical marijuana in states where the drug is legalized. There’s a reason the federal government is worried about risking media attention for bringing criminal charges against medical marijuana shops, and it’s because it realizes the public is not on its side.