Landlords: The Latest Victim in the War on Drugs

April 5, 2012

On April 19, Jonathan Janetski will learn how long he will be spending in federal prison.  He is looking at 30 to 36 months behind bars.  Janetski’s tenants were among the medical marijuana providers that were raided in March 2011.  It appears that the federal government is making good on their threat to go after those peripheral, but not directly involved in the medical marijuana industry.

According to media reports, we know that Jenetski knew his tenants were medical marijuana providers and that he had consulted with a lawyer and with the state prior to renting to them.  He also reviewed statements that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made while in Missoula in February 2011.  At that event, Holder said that he had made a decision early on that the scarce federal resources would not be used in going after the people who used marijuana according to their state’s laws.

We do not have all of the facts.

We do not know if state laws were broken.

We do know that marijuana is still federally illegal.

According to U.S. Code, it is also illegal to “knowingly open, lease, rent, use, or maintain any place, whether permanently or temporarily, for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance.”  In other words, it is still illegal under federal law to rent to medical marijuana providers regardless of any state law.   In California, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has sent letters out to landlords to warn them to stop the sale of medical marijuana within 45 days or face the possibility that their property will be seized and they will be sent to prison.  Unfortunately, that privilege has yet to be extended to landlords in Montana.  Not surprisingly, landlords across the state have started giving eviction notices to medical marijuana providers since this story made the news.  One can’t really blame them under these circumstances.

Who will be the next to be charged?  DPHHS employees?  Northwestern Energy employees?  Only time will tell.  Fear is a powerful tool.  One can see how the black market would seem more safe and certain these days.  As usual, those that suffer the most from this are the ones the feds said they would leave alone – the patients.