A group of prominent East Bay political leaders spoke out Wednesday against a federal attempt to close the Berkeley Patients Group, one of California’s oldest medical marijuana dispensaries.
Mayor Tom Bates, several members of the Berkeley City Council and a representative of Congresswoman Barbara Lee defended the dispensary against a forfeiture lawsuit that was filed on May 2 by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.
“It’s just incomprehensible why they would waste their time attacking law-abiding, taxpaying business, rather than going after the serious crime problems,” City Council member Kriss Worthington said.
“I think this is a horrible waste of money and a distraction,” he added.
Worthington said forcing patients to get their medicine underground “is taking us back 20 years.”
Patrona, a patient who gave only her first name, sat in her wheelchair with the political leaders. She said that she has suffered from six strokes and that closing the Berkeley Patients Group could have a serious impact on her life.
“Medical marijuana has stopped them (the strokes) completely,” Patrona said.
The Berkeley Patients Group said it has helped the lives of thousands of patients like Patrona over the years since opening in 1996. Just over a year ago it was forced to move from its last location. But the group says it has always complied with everything that has been asked of it.
“We’re shocked. We are very surprised that we would be served with this forfeiture complaint,” said Sean Luse, the group’s chief operations officer.
“We intend to fight this using every legal means available,” he added.
“They follow all of Berkeley’s laws, they’ve gotten the right permits, they pay their taxes every year, they give us millions of dollars,” Worthington said.
“We’re looking forward to our day in court and we are confident that we will ultimately prevail,” Luse said.