U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag sits in a district with some of the most well-known and respected medical marijuana dispensaries in the country. But she has her own reputation for being one of the fiercest enforcers of the federal marijuana prohibition in her territory, the Northern District of California. So when the Department of Justice directed prosecutors in August not to target those medical marijuana dispensaries complying with a robust state regulatory system, Haag was undeterred in her crusade to take on these dispensaries, saying she didn’t expect a “significant change” in her approach.
And she hasn’t disappointed. In the ensuing months, she has continued her aggressive pursuit to seize two Bay Area dispensaries that even the cities where they are housed have defended vigorously in court, saying they are crucial to public health.
Now, her members of Congress aren’t having it. Four California Democratic house members sent a letter to Haag cautioning that her hostility toward dispensaries is not only “counterproductive and economically prohibitive;” it also “appears to directly counter the spirit of Deputy Attorney General Cole’s memo, and is in direct opposition to the evolving view toward medical marijuana, the will of the people and, by now, common sense.”
In a released excerpt from their letter, Reps. Barbara Lee, George Miller, Sam Farr, and Eric Swalwell tell Haag that the “harassment and constant threat of prosecution should end.”
Haag has claimed that her prosecutions comport with the Justice Department’s guidance. But her suggestion that she is targeting these dispensaries because they are large and commercial conflicts directly with the Justice Department’s instruction that the commercial nature and size of a dispensary not be a basis for prosecution.
The Justice Department’s recent memo is not enforceable in court, as prosecutors exercise their own discretion in tactical decisions about cases. But the letter from her federal representatives makes clear that Haag will face considerable political pressure if she continues to flout the will of the Department of Justice, voters, and the involved local governments.