Federal prosecutors filed actions to seize the two properties — in adjacent suites at 7586 Redwood Blvd. — in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Monday. The Green Tiger closed its doors Tuesday, employees confirmed, but the Green Door will remain open unless it receives a direct order to shut down, director Lawrence Pebbles said.
"I want to combine the passion for helping our patients with the wisdom to stay out of jail," Pebbles said Wednesday.
The older of the two dispensaries, the Green Door, opened in April 2010 and was believed to be Novato’s only dispensary at the time. A real estate investor and a former contractor, Pebbles, 54, of Novato, said he was inspired to open the dispensary by the experience of his grandmother, who used medical marijuana a decade ago near the end of her life to treat nausea and other symptoms.
"It increased her appetite and took away her nausea," he said. "It’s what we call harm reduction."
The Green Tiger opened next door several months later, according to federal prosecutors. On Wednesday, employees cleaning out the Green Tiger confirmed it had closed a day earlier but declined to comment further.
Federal prosecutors filed forfeiture actions against the properties themselves and not the dispensaries or their landlords, but it was enough of a signal for the Green Tiger to close, said Scot Candell, an attorney for the dispensary.
"Because they (pot club operators) are friendly with the landlords, they don’t want the landlords to lose their property, so they agreed to leave," Candell said.
Martin and Kerry O’Brien, landlords for the Green Tiger, and David Cesena, landlord for the Green Door, could not be reached for comment.
Last year, Cesena attempted to evict the Green Door but Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy Chernus ruled in favor of the dispensary, writing that "the parties clearly agreed that the premises were intended to be used for the operation of a medicinal cannabis collective."
Cesena recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy with more than $1 million in liabilities, including a claim of $26,000 in legal fees — listed as disputed — owed to Pebbles and his wife.
Both dispensaries have come under pressure from Novato city staffers, who have sent cease-and-desist letters alleging violation of zoning and other rules. The Novato City Council approved a temporary moratorium on new dispensaries in December 2010, after the two in question had opened, and approved a one-year extension a year later.
Dispensaries in Marin and California have openly sold marijuana since voters approved its medicinal use in 1996. The Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax opened that same year and was the state’s oldest operating dispensary when it closed in December 2011.
In 2009, federal officials appeared to offer dispensaries some protection with new guidelines for U.S. attorneys.
"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in an statement announcing the new guidelines.
Two years later, the four California-based U.S. attorneys announced a new crackdown over what they called a "large, for-profit marijuana industry" that had developed since the 1996 ballot measure. New, targeted enforcement actions would include civil forfeiture lawsuits, warning letters to landlords and criminal cases, they said.
Opponents of dispensaries have argued that they pot clubs serve many recreational users who purchase the drug with notes from doctors who specialize in marijuana consultations.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California — whose name appears on the Novato actions — called attention to dispensaries operating near schools, parks and other children’s areas but said all dispensaries could be subject to action.
"None are immune from action by the federal government," she said in a statement in October 2011.
The Marin Alliance was among the first to be targeted, and it closed two months after receiving a forfeiture letter.
The Marin Wellness Center in Kentfield closed early this year because of federal pressure but continues to provide deliveries. And Going Green, a former Corte Madera dispensary that took over the Tree of Life space in Santa Venetia, recently closed under federal pressure but still provides deliveries.
In Corte Madera, the dispensary Holistic Solutions obtained a settlement agreement with the town to stay open until June 2014 and remains open. It appears it would be Marin’s last brick-and-mortar marijuana dispensary if the Green Door closes.
Pebbles called the federal crackdown a waste of "an incredible amount of money."
"This is about the patients," he said. "There are forces that don’t get it."
News Hawk – 420 Warrior 420 MAGAZINE
Location: San Jose, CA
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Author: Will Jason
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