BERKELEY, Calif. — About four years ago, former U.S. attorney for the Northern
District of California Melinda Haag filed a lawsuit threatening to
confiscate the land owned by Nahla Droubi on which a marijuana
dispensary sat and operated, citing a violation of federal law but
not California law, because it was located within 1,000 feet of two
That lawsuit and other similar lawsuits allegedly were filed by
the federal government to hamper marijuana dispensaries. The one
targeted by this lawsuit involved Berkeley Patients Group. But
Berkeley Patients Group and the city of Berkeley turned around and
challenged the suit. The city got involved in the litigation process
because it collects the dispensary's tax revenues and oversees
medical marijuana within its city limits.
However, despite the lawsuit, a district judge ruled that Berkeley
Patients Group could continue to function while the case continued
through the court system. Eight months later in October 2015, the
U.S. attorney's office entered discussions to dismiss the case with
prejudice. That meant the dispensary could not be prosecuted again
for those same claims, said Henry Wykowski, counsel for Berkeley
But in a twist, the U.S. attorney's office that same month filed a
dismissal without prejudice without informing Berkeley Patients
Group, Wykowski said. He then filed an objection on behalf of his
client. The U.S. attorney's office turned around and agreed to a
dismissal with prejudice, but only as long as the dispensary doesn't
file suit against the U.S. Department of Justice.
"My client is happy to be done," Wykowski told The Northern California Record. "I think it was a misguided
action taken by the department of justice to impede the progress of
Berkeley Patients Group Chief Operations Officer Sean Luse said in
a news release during court proceedings that the dispensary was a
"necessary service" for patients.
"Berkeley Patients Group intends to vigorously defend the
rights of its patients to be able to obtain medical cannabis from a
responsible, city-licensed dispensary,” Luse said.
During the legal process, many of Berkeley's government officials
publicly supported Berkeley Patients Group.
"The medical use of marijuana is legal under California law,
but not federal law," Wykowski said. "The federal government
has tried a number of strategies to inhibit the progress of cannabis
both for medical purposes and for adult recreational use, which have
Wykowski also said that the federal government needs to "wake
up and recognize that they're living in a different world."
"It's unfortunate that the federal government isn't providing
leadership toward accomplishing making cannabis legalized and letting
it exist on a state-by-state basis," he said.
As one of California's oldest dispensaries, Berkeley Patient Group
has been operating in Berkeley since 1999. But this case wasn't the
first time the federal government targeted the business. In 2011,
Haag sent a letter demanding that the business move in order to be in
accordance with federal law requiring a dispensary to be more than
1,000 feet away from a school.