DEA eyes Oakland medical marijuana club

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration may be moving toward action against one or more of the four medical marijuana clubs permitted by the city of Oakland.

“Oaksterdam” pioneer Richard Lee got a letter from the DEA recently (read it here, page 1 and page 2) warning him that his ownership of the SR-71 Coffeeshop at 377 17th St. may subject him to federal prosecution that could land him in stir for up to 20 years and lead to the forfeiture of his property, regardless of whatever protection he claims under California’s medical marijuana law or Oakland’s ordinances. (The DEA appears to be a little behind the times in at least one regard; SR-71 renamed itself “Coffeeshop Blue Sky” several months ago.)

The DEA has been sending these threatening letters to landlords of San Francisco dispensaries, and now Oakland City Hall is abuzz — officials had hoped the city’s small number of dispensaries and tight regulations would make Oakland less of a target, but apparently that’s not going to be the case.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., earlier this year voiced concern and promised oversight hearings on the DEA’s practice of threatening private landlords with asset forfeiture and possible imprisonment if they refuse to evict organizations dispensing medical marijuana to patients under state laws. “The Committee has already questioned the DEA about its efforts to undermine California state law on this subject, and we intend to sharply question this specific tactic as part of our oversight efforts,” Conyers said in May — but no such hearings have occurred.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.