Oakland goes to federal court to stop Harborside closure

Posted on October 12th, 2012 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

OaklandOakland City Attorney Barbara Parker and San Francisco law firm Morrison & Foerster announced Oct. 11 that the City of Oakland has filed a complaint in US District Court to stop the federal government from seizing an Oakland building used by a medical marijuana dispensary. "This lawsuit is about protecting the rights of legitimate medical patients," Parker said in a statement. "I am deeply dismayed that the federal government would seek to deny these rights and deprive thousands of seriously ill Californians of access to safe, affordable and effective medicine." The civil suit, which has City Council approval, seeks to "restrain and declare unlawful" forfeiture proceedings against the landlords of the dispensary, Harborside Health Center, stating that Oakland will "suffer irreparable harm if the dispensaries are shuttered."

"It is heartening to see the city stand up and support us," Steve DeAngelo, Harborside's director, told the New York Times. The nonprofit dispensary employs 100 people and serves some 112,000 more, seeing 600 to 800 customers a day. Last year, it paid $3.5 million in taxes, including $1.1 million to the city.

"This is a great day for medical marijuana patients and for the residents of Oakland," said Steph Sherer, director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical marijuana patients’ advocacy organization. "City Attorney Parker is ray of sunshine for all patients who have been watching the federal government jeopardize their access to medical marijuana. We all know that the federal government is over stepping its reach in states with medical marijuana laws. It is wonderful to see that the City of Oakland is continuing to stand up for its legal patients."

Added ASA chief counsel Joe Elford: "This complaint spells out how medical marijuana patients weren’t the only ones who were duped by Obama's statements about medical marijuana. The City of Oakland alleges in its lawsuit that it believed that the federal government would not disturb medical marijuana dispensaries that operate in compliance with state law. Obama has broken this promise."

The City's press release stated: "The property at 1840 Embarcadero is the location of the Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary operating under a permit issued by the City of Oakland. In July, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California filed a forfeiture action against the real property where the dispensary is located. The City's lawsuit does not seek damages, but asks the court to enjoin and declare unlawful the federal government's attempt to close down the dispensary."

The statement also notes: "The City of Oakland carefully created a regulatory scheme for medical marijuana dispensaries in order to maintain public health and safety, including the issuance of permits, the monitoring of licensed dispensaries, annual auditing of the dispensaries’ financial statements, and employee background checks to ensure compliance with state and city law."

Added Parker in her own statement: "My hope is that the federal government will focus its resources on the real crisis in Oakland – violent crime and illegal guns that are snuffing out so many lives. In the midst of this crisis, it is a tragic waste for the federal government to spend its time and resources cracking down on legitimate health care providers." (NYT, ASA via The Weed Blog, Oct. 11)

Photo: Calwest


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