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Judge Rules Against Feds: California Medical Marijuana Dispensary To Remain Open

Sam Sabzehzar 2013-07-05 0 comments

By David Downs  |  Published in East Bay Express

Harborside Health Center in Oakland, CA is legally permitted medical cannabis dispensing center, yet the feds want to close them down regardless. (Photo credit: Robyn Twomey)

The feds just got dealt a major blow in their fight to seize the property of the world’s largest lawful medical cannabis dispensary, Harborside Health Center in Oakland.

According to US Court records for the Northern District, Judge Maria-Elena James granted a motion to stay by the City of Oakland that effectively delays the feds’ case against Harborside for more than fifteen months.

Californians legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and the City of Oakland gave Harborside Health Center an operating permit in 2006.

In October 2011, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag joined a broad federal crackdown on lawful medical marijuana businesses in California.

In July 2012, Haag began the process of seizing Harborside’s building at 1840 Embarcadero as well as Harborside’s location in San Jose.

Harborside fought back, and intends to take their case to a jury in the Bay Area, a region that overwhelmingly supports medical marijuana.

The City of Oakland joined the fight in October, suing the federal government and stating that it will be severely harmed if Harborside closes. The city would lose millions of dollars in sales tax revenue, and closing Harborside would also hurt public safety, they argue.

Oakland has a functioning regulatory system for medical cannabis distribution and destroying it would lead to patients buying drugs off the street, and the return of unpermitted pot shops.

Haag motioned to dismiss the Oakland lawsuit, and in February Judge James granted the motion, noting that under federal law, only the dispensary and its landlords have the standing to contest the U.S. government’s attempted seizure of the property.

On February 27, the City of Oakland appealed Judge James’ dismissal and on June 20 motioned to stay Haag’s forfeiture case while it appealed. Today, Judge James granted the stay, court records show.

The trial date for federal civil forfeiture against Harborside won’t occur until after the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hears Oakland’s appeal. That could take fifteen months, a Harborside source said.

“Judge James’ ruling allows the City of Oakland to continue its legal action to protect public health and safety from the misguided attacks of US Attorney Melinda Haag,” said Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo, in a statement. “Haag’s campaign to close state-legal dispensaries has already destroyed thousands of well-paying jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue, while endangering patients and enriching street gangs and drug cartels. It is long past time for the Department of Justice to bring her under control, and halt this extraordinary waste of limited law enforcement resources.”

July 12 is the one-year anniversary of Haag moving against the 120,000-person dispensary.