SACRAMENTO, CA - The federal government is warning landlords who rent to marijuana dispensaries that they risk losing their property.
Despite California law allowing the sale and use of medicinal marijuana, the federal government still considers it a crime.
A certified letter from the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco alerts landlords that they could not only lose their property, but also any rent paid by the dispensary operator.
"The dispensary is operating in violation of federal law," the letter states. "Property involved in such operations, including real property, is subject to seizure by and forfeiture to the United States."
"Please take the necessary steps to discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana at the above-referenced location within 45 days," the letter warns.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Sacramento confirmed her office would also be contacting dispensary landlords.
"We are initiating similar communications to selected property owners in the Eastern District," public information officer Lauren Horwood said. "We will be in a position to say more in the near future."
Horwood gave no indication how landlords would be selected, and the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco declined to comment on the letter.
The letter itself, however, suggests dispensaries near schools and playgrounds may be primary targets.
"Since the dispensary is operating within a prohibited distance of a school . . . the unlawful operation of the dispensary is subject to enhanced penalties," the letter warns.
Federal law provides for enhanced penalties when illegal drugs are sold within 1,000 feet of a school or playground.
A Sacramento-area property owner who rents to a dispensary said he was careful to draft an escape clause in the lease just in case something like this happened.
The landlord asked that his name and the name of the dispensary not be used to avoid unwanted attention.
"We knew this was a possibility, although we thought it was remote," he said.
By George Warren, GWarren@news10.net