Landlords May Lose Properties Over Marijuana Laws

Two California landlords have found themselves in a legal tug-of-war over the state’s pot regulations.

After California sanctioned the sale of medical marijuana, and it appeared the federal government would condone the practice,  a national medical marijuana dispensary took up shop at two separate sites near Oakland.

Now, both of those landlords are being threatened by federal officials with forfeiture of their property under a federal statute that holds a landlord liable for renting to a tenant who is distributing drugs. One shop  has been operating since 2006.

In response to the forfeiture action, the landlords filed a suit against the dispensaries attempting to forbid the sale of marijuana under the federal statute. This week, a federal judge says they don’t have the right to do that.

At the same time, the landlords are having trouble pushing the evictions through at the state level. One judge has determined that the landlord cannot evict the tenants over the federal law.

Now, according to a recent news report, the City of Oakland has joined the fray, arguing that closing a dispensary would create a public health hazard because it would force patients to buy marijuana on the black market.

According to the report, the federal forfeiture action is proceeding against the landlords.

Last year, a Montana landlord faced a similar forfeiture action, a  jail sentence, and fine after his tenants marijuana grow operation was raided by federal authorities. While the landlord knew that marijuana would be grown in the property, he said he believed that the lease was legal because the tenant had a licensed issued by the state, and it appeared at that time that the federal government would honor the state’s law.

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