Over 20 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, including California, Maine, New Jersey, and Illinois. These state laws allow for a caretaker to administer marijuana to a patient and for people to run garden cooperatives, where patients cultivate together. However, these laws do not authorize the sale of marijuana, which often takes place at medical marijuana dispensaries. Therefore, most medical marijuana dispensary activities are merely tolerated by local law enforcement.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means it is of no medicinal value. Federal law does not permit the cultivation, use, or sale of Schedule 1 drugs. Since federal law trumps state law, medical marijuana dispensaries operate illegally in violation of federal law.
One way that the DEA has begun to fight back against medical marijuana dispensaries is a letter-writing campaign to the landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries in major cities, serving them notice that marijuana is being sold on their premises in violation of federal law. The letter informs them of potential fines, prison, and forfeiture of their property. The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 makes landlords subject to forfeiture when served proof of drug activity on the premises.
There are laws in place, such as the 1988 Drug Abuse Act, that give landlords the right to evict tenants who carry on illegal activities involving drugs. It is generally settled in all states that a landlord may evict a tenant who participates in an illegal activity that is a threat to the safety of others.
The DEA letter with the threat of forfeiture would serve as adequate grounds for eviction. The federal government has the right to seize property in order to promote the greater social good or to prevent urban blight through eminent domain. As the DEA has convicted at least one medical marijuana dispensary landlord and has raided many marijuana storefronts, many attorneys advise medical marijuana dispensary landlords to evict their tenants.
Dealing with an eviction is tricky enough, regardless of whether you are the tenant or the landlord. When the tenant is a medical marijuana dispensary, an eviction becomes even more difficult to deal with because of the potentially criminal element. Thus, it is advisable to retain a real estate lawyer to help you navigate the difficulties of an eviction of a medical marijuana dispensary.