Obama Administration Drops Charges Against Several California Landlords That Rented To Marijuana Dispensaries

| by Will Hagle

The U.S. Attorney’s office has officially dropped cases against several California landlords that had marijuana dispensaries operating in their buildings. 

One Anaheim-based landlord, Tony Jalali, stood to lose his $1.5 million property as a result of a DEA investigation in which an undercover officer purchased $37 worth of marijuana at the facility. The undercover officer had forged a doctor’s recommendation and was posing as a legitimate patient, and managed to purchase the marijuana without actually having a prescription.

Jalali works as a software engineer, and had owned the building that housed the dispensary as an investment towards his retirement. Before a federal case threatened to remove Jalali’s assets, threatening his retirement, Jalali had already evicted the dispensary in question.

Although the federal government had agreed to drop the case against Jalali several months ago, they had provisions that required the landlord to be subject to random inspections and to never rent to another dispensary again. In a victory brought about by attorney Matthew Pappas and Washington D.C.’s Institute For Justice, Jalali has since had those provisions drop. The only remaining provision is that Jalali not ask the U.S. government to pay his attorney’s fees, The OC Weekly reports. 

Other marijuana dispensary landlord cases that have been dropped include the case against Dr. Mark Burcaw, who owns a building that has a dispensary in Santa Ana, as well as Tom Woo and Eagle Rock landlord Walter and Diane Bostsch. All of these locations are concentrated in Southern California. 

Jalali’s attorney Pappas spoke on the Obama administration’s changing policy towards marijuana — both legal and medical. The administration has yet to crack down on Colorado and Washington’s legalization of the drug, and it has scaled back efforts to close or criminalize dispensaries such as the one Jalali rented to.

“It’s pretty amazing for them to come up and dismiss the cases, pretty unusual,” Pappas told the OC Weekly. “I think it’s a major victory for patients, for citizens in general.”

This may not signify a scaling-back of the War on Drugs, but it does demonstrate Obama’s shifting view on marijuana, the drug which he heavily opposed during his earliest years in office.