In May of 2013, the federal government filed a motion against brothers Ebrahim and Valentine Pouras in an attempt to seize their property located at 2441 Mission Street in San Francisco, California.
The feds’ beef was that the Pouras brothers were knowingly leasing the property in question to a medical marijuana business by the name of Shambhala Healing. The dispensary was located within 1000 feet of two parks, placing it in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The United States federal government eventually shook the landlords down for six figures, but they weren’t quite satisfied with that.
When authorities from the San Francisco Department of Health first came knocking in February 2012, the Pouras brothers were very forthcoming about the nature of the business being operated out of their building.
Even though one of the two parks in question was not officially in use anymore, having been written off by the local Parks and Rec department, they did not argue to allow their tenants to remain in business and Shambhala Healing was ordered to pack up their pot and close up shop.
However, when inspectors paid another visit eight months later in November, they discovered that Shambhala was still slanging 8ths to qualified medical marijuana patients from the site on Mission Street.
In the spring of 2013, the local U.S. Attorney’s office got involved. Their first action was to threaten the Pouras brothers with asset forfeiture, meaning they stood to potentially lose their building to the feds.
So in September of the same year the Pouras brothers scratched out a check for a cool $150,000 to Uncle Sam to quell the threat of having their property taken away. In addition to what they felt at the time was an awfully large sum of hush-money, the brothers were also made to agree to “assist the United States in good faith, as needed against the remaining claimants involved”.
In other words, rat out the rest of the people involved.
In one of his first tasks in his new role however, Valentine Pouras was instructed by the feds to produce rental records for the property. He refused the order, instead offering to depose himself and verbally answer any questions regarding rent payments.
So fast forward to now, December of 2014, and the feds were still trying to seize the Pouras’ property, or at the very least, keep it as a leash around their necks as long as possible.
Earlier this month, on December 8th, U. S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled in favor of Shambhala and the Pouras Brothers, agreeing with them that since the federal government gladly took the money in September, and since there were no specific guidelines set for the brothers to satisfy the demand to “assist” the feds, that the property on Mission Street could no longer be seized by the government as a consequence of its relationship to the former Shambhala Healing dispensary.
Last Friday the feds had to release their lis pendens on the property, effectively clearing its public record of any action against it.
Henry Wykowski is Shambhala’s high-powered cannabis-friendly attorney who also happens to represent Harborside Health Center. After Judge Illston’s ruling, he told Courthouse News Service, “We are happy that the court dismissed the action against Shambhala and we think it’s the appropriate decision and we hope that this is a catalyst for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco to re-examine their position with respect to the other forfeiture cases and hopefully dismiss them also.”
Seeing the overpaid, overstarched suits representing our federal government – sadly, paid for by our tax dollars – sitting in Judge Illston’s courtroom listening as Wykowski systematically schooled them at their own game must have been priceless.
They should have just took the money and run, like they have so many times. Now it’s time to put an end to that as well.