Marijuana Godmother Lynette Shaw wins in Federal Court

Lynette Shaw, the self-styled “Godmother of Medical Marijuana dispensaries” has secured a major a milestone in the fight to re-open her historic Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax.

A Federal ruling cleared the way for Shaw to finally reopen Alliances dispensary which was shuttered 4 years ago after decades of legal wrangling, setting a legal precedent which will likely affect dispensaries throughout Northern California.

Lynette Shaw, owner of Fairfax’s Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana
Lynette Shaw, owner of Fairfax’s Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (Photo Courtesy of MarinIJ)

In a statement following the ruling, Shaw said, “After over 100 hearings throughout the past 18 years, we won our case in the name of the truth, medical rights, civil rights, and the Constitution. Licensed dispensaries are all my godchildren and I am proud that we have protected every dispensary in the nation with this ruling.”

Shaw first opened Alliance in 1996, long before dispensaries were as commonplace as name brand coffee shops.  It was the first medical marijuana dispensary in the state to operate under the auspices of Proposition 215, California’s Compassionate Use Act. But in 2011 Alliance was shut down in a Federal crackdown of local dispensaries launched by then San Francisco-based U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, Melinda Haag.

In a move straight out a John Grisham novel Haag reportedly threatened Shaw’s landlord, Farshid Ezazi of Orinda, with confiscation of his School Street building if he continued to allow the dispensary to operate there. The Fairfax dispensary was among dozens statewide that federal prosecutors said they targeted due to their proximity to parks, schools and other facilities used by children.

The ruling that will likely set new precedents was U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer’s decision that the injunction used to shut down the Marin Alliance is unenforceable as long as a budget amendment approved by Congress in December 2014, Section 538, remains in effect.

Charles Breyer, U.S. District Judge
Charles Breyer, U.S. District Judge (Photo Courtesy of SFGate Blog)

In his ruling, Breyer wrote that the rider* “prohibits the Department of Justice from expending any funds in connection with the enforcement of any law that interferes with California’s ability to ‘implement its own state law that authorizes the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.’”

Breyer continued “The government appears to mean that, in the grand scheme of things, shutting down any given dispensary may be presumed to have such a minimal effect on California’s medical marijuana regime that it does not ‘prevent’ California from ‘implementing’ its state law.” According to Time. com, Breyer rejected that notion:

“It defies language and logic for the government to argue that it does not ‘prevent’ California from ‘implementing its medical marijuana laws by shutting down these same heavily regulated medical marijuana dispensaries,” Breyer wrote, “whether it shuts down one, some, or all, the difference is of degree, not of kind.”

“I think it will be looked at by federal courts all over the country and definitely in Northern California,” said Shaw’s co-counsel, Greg Anton of Sebastopol. “The war on marijuana is finally winding down and marijuana won.”

*There is a draft appropriations bill that contains an updated version of Section 538 (the rider), which provides protections for additional states that have passed medical cannabis laws since the passage of the previous rider.


Petey Wheatstraw

Hi, my name is Petey Wheatstraw. I'm an avid marijuana smoker, writer, devoted father and non-profit minion-- not necessarily in that order. A Chicago native I've lived in the Bay Area since 1996. Click Here for Free Cannabis