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Federal government drops case against Harborside marijuana dispensary

on May 13, 2016

In 2012, medical marijuana dispensary Harborside Health Center was almost shut down by the federal government when U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed civil forfeiture actions against the dispensary for selling pot in its Oakland-based facility. The government attempted to seize Harborside’s property.

Though medical marijuana has been legal to sell and purchase in California since 1996, it still is federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

Over the course of four years, Harborside dealt with multiple state and federal court proceedings, and many had to do with evicting the dispensary from their two buildings. According to co-founder Andrew DeAngelo, “the lease clearly indicated that we were violating federal law and the landlord knew that prior to leasing with us.”

DeAngelo and his brother Steve opened the dispensary almost 10 years ago, and had been in operation for six years before the action occurred. “We showed up for work one day and there was a forfeiture [notice] taped on the door of both of our dispensaries,” he said.

DeAngelo said hundreds of dispensaries around the nation were brought down by the government that year, and he made sure Harborside wasn’t one of them.

“We’ve never backed down from the government, we never backed down from the police,” said DeAngelo. “We know we’re right about cannabis, we know this plant isn’t a bad plant, and we’re just going to keep fighting. Even from a jail cell, I will keep fighting.”

Harborside gathered support from state representatives like Senator Barbara Lee and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. “We leveraged every local elected official we could get support from, to put more pressure on the federal government,” said DeAngelo.

That same year, the City of Oakland challenged the civil forfeiture action against Harborside’s property. The City Attorney’s office argued in a countersuit  that the government’s attempt to seize the property “impinges the regulatory framework Oakland has developed to oversee medical cannabis dispensaries” in compliance with state laws.

A court ruled that the dispensary could remain open during the city’s appeal.

Many Oakland government leaders, including councilmember-at-large Rebecca Kaplan, who has been long-time advocates of marijuana regulation, argued that the government should be spending its time and money on more issues like gun control instead of focusing on cannabis.

On May 3, the federal government announced it would drop its case against Harborside.

Click on the video above to hear reactions to the news from DeAngelo and Kaplan.



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