It’s Oakland Vs. Washington In Legal Battle Over Huge Medical Marijuana Dispensary

In what is believed to be the first instance of a municipality suing the federal government on behalf of a medical marijuana dispensary, the city of Oakland has gone to court to ask the feds to please stop trying to close down the largest such dispensary in the country.

There has been an understanding between the White House and the state of California that federal agents wouldn’t hassle any dispensaries that abide by the state’s laws. But back in July, federal authorities began a forfeiture action against the Harborside Health Center, which has more than 100,000 patients and $3.5 million in taxes last year alone, with $1.1 million of that going to the city of Oakland.

At the time the forfeiture action was announced, the U.S. Attorney for the region called Harborside a marijuna “superstore,” and that the “the larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state’s medical marijuana laws and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need.”

But Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker says that shutting down Harborside will just lead to a rise in unwanted crime.

“If the federal government is successful with shutting down these businesses we have licensed and are complying with regulations and taxes, we will shift people into the black market,” explained Parker. “That will endanger their lives because they may not have safe, affordable access to medicine… It will also exacerbate our crime and public safety crisis.”

The city also claims that the attempt to seize Harborside, which opened in 2006, should be stopped because the five-year statute of limitations on forfeitures lapsed a year ago. Attorneys representing the company claim the only way the feds could try to say the statute hadn’t lapsed is if they can prove they didn’t know about Harborside when it opened. And given the size and notoriety of the dispensary, it might be awfully hard to prove that the feds weren’t aware of it until recently.

“Compassion and common sense says that if you’re going to give patients the right to use cannabis, you also need to provide them a way to legally access that medicine,” Harborside’s executive director tells the San Francisco Chronicle. “The city, like us, is simply asking for the federal government to honor the policies they’ve already articulated.”

Oakland’s decision to sue the federal government comes hot on the heels of the Los Angeles City Council’s vote to repeal its own recent ban on dispensaries.

Oakland sues feds over pot dispensary [SFgate.com]
Oakland sues U.S. to stop medical marijuana property seizures [LAtimes.com]