Yesterday Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would stop the Justice Department from using civil asset forfeiture threats to close down medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating in compliance with state law. "For more than a year," Americans for Safe Access notes, "the DOJ has been engaged in a campaign to undermine the implementation of state law by threatening real property owners with asset forfeiture if they do not promptly evict their state law-compliant medical cannabis businesses." Many dispensaries in states such California, Colorado, and Washington have closed as a result of these threats. Lee's bill, the States' Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, would add the following language to the Controlled Substances Act:
No real property, including any right, title, and interest in the whole of any lot or tract of land and any appurtenances or improvements, shall be subject to forfeiture under subparagraph (A) due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.
Deciding which conduct is authorized by state law may be trickier in California than in Colorado, but here's a crazy idea that might just work: Why not let state officials make that call? The Obama administration should have no problem supporting this bill, since it has repeatedly said the Justice Department won't be using its scarce resources to target state-authorized medical marijuana suppliers. Except that policy was never really carried out. Quite the opposite, in fact.
You might think legislation aimed at promoting federalism, protecting property rights, and curtailing asset forfeiture abuse would attract Republicans, but so far all the co-sponsors are Democrats. Drug warriors have been warning us for decades that marijuana impairs memory, and the clearest example is the way it makes conservatives forget their principles.