Bill’s passage would protect patients, jobs

Nicole Lim/Staff

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Jayden is only 5 years old and suffers from a rare form of epilepsy. His father, Jason David, tearfully shares how the only relief from his son’s physical pain and life-threatening seizures is from a nonpsychoactive molecule found in cannabis, called cannabidiol. However, recent crackdowns and closures of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California have made finding relief for Jayden more challenging. That’s what has motivated Rep. Barbara Lee to introduce H.R. 6335, the Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, to stop the unnecessary raiding of dispensaries.

Recent attempts to close down many dispensaries, including Harborside Health Center in Oakland, where Jayden and 108,000 other patients seek respite, have threatened forfeiture and charges to owners and landlords who lease space to medical marijuana dispensaries. The legislation by Lee would stop the seizure of property from landlords of state-compliant medical marijuana businesses and not implicate property owners in the businesses of their tenants.

Over the years, medical marijuana dispensaries have provided a safe and professional service to hundreds of thousands of patients living with AIDS, cancer and other life-inhibiting conditions. Safe access is essential to guaranteeing responsible use of medical marijuana. It is irrational that anyone would oppose patients’ safe access to medical treatment. That’s why we were all shocked to witness the “paramilitary sting” to shut down a renowned facility such as Oaksterdam University earlier this year.

Oaksterdam University was a medical marijuana training school, founded in 2007, and offered classes in horticulture, business and legal application of running a dispensary. From the aggressive raid at the school in April, one would think law enforcers would confiscate thousands of pounds in marijuana. Instead, there were no reports of illegal possession or misuse. The school does not distribute marijuana for medical or recreational use, contrary to popular assumptions.

The shutdown of Oaksterdam revealed how beloved by the community the school was. For years, it trained caregivers with the necessary tools to aid seriously and terminally ill patients and to do it with dignity and sympathy. More than 100 people lost their jobs when the federal government shut down Oaksterdam.

These raids are also threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of trained professionals who own and work at medical marijuana dispensaries. The Blue Sky Dispensary in Oakland was a 15-year registered-permitted facility with a unionized workforce of trained professionals. It was forced to close due to the threats of federal forfeiture action. Those patients that relied on the safe access to care were left to fend for themselves, and dozens of employees lost their jobs and health care for their families.

In May, our very own Berkeley Patients Group became one of the largest casualties of the federal crackdown after threats of federal property seizure. Nearly 100 workers were let go, many of whom had been at the facility since its opening 12 years ago. These workers had good paying jobs with health care benefits and retirement security. BPG has since announced its relocation to San Pablo Avenue.

People who have dedicated their lives to treating patients with humane care are being attacked. But why we need H.R. 6335 to become law is for the Jaydens in our state.

Without safe access to medical marijuana, Jayden’s dad and other patients would be left to fend for themselves to seek treatment. Patients desperate for care would be forced to go back onto street corners and “underground” to seek medicinal care — and that only puts more lives in jeopardy. No one in America should succumb to these desperate acts to seek out care when it could be provided and guaranteed if Congress only passes H.R. 6335.

We urge the passage of H.R. 6335 immediately, and we applaud Lee for her continued commitment to safe and professional care for our communities not only in the 9th Congressional District but across the country.

Dan Rush is a resident of the 9th Congressional District and chair of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission. He is also national director of the Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.