DOJ poised to dismiss longstanding MMJ dispensary case

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The U.S. Department of Justice is on the verge of dismissing a 3-year-old case against Berkeley Patients Group, according to a press release from the medical marijuana dispensary.

The DOJ initiated forfeiture proceedings against the dispensary in May 2013, a commonly-used tactic at the time against many medical cannabis businesses in California. But after Congress approved an amendment in 2014 that prohibited federal agents from interfering with state-legal marijuana companies – the amendment was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals this summer – the DOJ was left with basically no recourse.

That led the Justice Department to drop a case against Oakland’s Harborside Health Center in May, and now it looks as if the same will happen with Berkeley Patients Group (BPG), which says it is the oldest medical cannabis dispensary in the nation.

But the deal isn’t done, said BPG’s attorney, Henry Wykowski (who also represents Harborside). Since Friday, he said, the DOJ has been trying to get the case dismissed without prejudice, meaning the government could possibly bring the same proceedings against BPG in the future. When that prospect arose Friday, Wykowski said he immediately objected because he wants the case dismissed with prejudice.

“They gave Harborside a dismissal with prejudice that they didn’t attempt to limit. So why are they treating BPG differently?” Wykowski said.

Wykowski plans to file an objection Monday with the presiding judge. That means the case could linger for another month, perhaps longer, before it is formally dismissed and BPG is completely cleared.