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Justice Department Continues Prosecution Of Harborside Health Center

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harborside health center medical marijuanaHarborside Health Center, located in Oakland, California, is the largest medical marijuana dispensary on the planet. In every measurable way they are playing by the rules that they are governed by. They have a license from the City of Oakland, which likes the dispensary very much. The dispensary is well regulated and is willing to jump through just about every hoop they are asked about. Congress de-funded medical marijuana raids in the last budget, and the Obama administration has issued guidelines that call for respecting medical marijuana businesses if they are in a state that has legalized medical marijuana. But, despite all of this, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag continues her war against Harborside Health Center, and still seeks to shut it down. Per the Huffington Post:

Lawyers for U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag appeared in court Tuesday in an effort to shut down a medical marijuana collective in Oakland, California, despite federal guidance discouraging U.S. prosecutors from going after state-legal cannabis operations.

“There was quite a bit of head-scratching,” Tamar Todd, director of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, told The Huffington Post of Tuesday’s hearing, which she attended. “The Department of Justice has repeatedly said to back off these cases. Why pick this fight?”

Haag first targeted Harborside Health Center, a $25-million-a-year business widely considered to be the nation’s largest marijuana dispensary, in July 2012 on grounds that the facility had grown too big. Later that year, attorneys representing the city of Oakland sued to block Haag’s actions, arguing that Harborside is an asset to the community and that closing it may create a public health crisis. The case is now being argued before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Below is a reaction to Tuesday hearing from Harborside Health Center:

City of Oakland to Argue: City has standing to sue the Federal Government to avert public health and safety crisis.

In July 2012, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag launched a federal civil forfeiture suit to seize the properties where Harborside Health Center is located, as part of a larger crackdown on California’s medical cannabis law. In October, 2012, the City of Oakland sued to block the civil forfeiture suit on the grounds it would cause a public heath and safety crisis. A lower court ruling in 2013 dismissed  Oakland vs. Eric Holder, Jr. , and the City’s appeal of that ruling is now before the 9th Circuit.

Haag Persists After Holder Kills Civil Forfeiture Program

Just two weeks ago, Eric Holder ended a federal/state civil forfeiture program because it allowed seizure of property without any criminal charge or conviction. Harborside Health Center has never been charged or convicted of a state or federal crime, but Haag shows no sign of easing her efforts to seize the properties it is located in.

“It’s difficult to understand federal logic. Two weeks ago, Eric Holder said the government shouldn’t seize property without a criminal conviction—but that is exactly what Melinda Haag is trying to do to Harborside. We have never even been charged with a committing a single crime, much less been convicted. If Attorney General Holder doesn’t realize what’s going on in his own agency, he must be smoking something a lot stronger than cannabis”.—Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director ,Harborside Health Center.

In 2006, the City of Oakland granted Harborside Health Center (HHC) a permit to operate.  Today it is widely recognized as model, gold standard medical cannabis dispensary, is now the largest medicinal dispensary in the United States, serving more than 150,000 patients.  Since Harborside’s opening, over 30 states have passed medical cannabis laws, and four states have legalized the adult use of cannabis.

“The legal cannabis industry is now the fastest growing industry in America. It has created tens of thousands of new jobs, and hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes. No matter how much she tries, Federal Attorney Melinda Haag cannot turn back the clock. If her bosses don’t stop her, California voters will in 2016” Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director Harborside Health Center

Headed to US Supreme Court

The 9th Circuit ruling will almost certainly be appealed to the US Supreme Court by whichever party loses, and the Harborside litigation is expected to continue well into 2017.

“Harborside still has zero intention of closing its doors. We expect to be open and serving patients long after Melinda Haag leaves office.” - Harborside Executive Director, Steve DeAngelo

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