City of Oakland Back in Court to Fight Closure of Harborside Medical Marijuana Dispensary

SAN FRANCISCO — The City of Oakland’s fight against the federal government’s attempt to close the largest medical marijuana dispensary in the United States — and one of Oakland’s top tax paying retailers– was renewed Thursday when attorneys for the city asked a federal judge to postpone court proceedings in the case.

The request for postponement comes after a federal judge ruled in February that the city does not have legal rights in a forfeiture case against the owners of the building that contains Oakland’s Harborside Health Center.

In February, Judge Maria-Elena James wrote in a 10-page ruling that a local U.S. attorney had successfully argued the federal government was immune from Oakland’s lawsuit under the Administrative Procedures Act, which sets out how U.S. agencies develop and issue regulations.

On Thursday, attorneys from the city asked James to postpone all actions in the case until an appeals court can review her ruling, which could take up to a year before the case is heard.

The city of Oakland has been attempting to kill an attempt by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag to close Harborside Health Care, which is one of the largest and most respected medical marijuana dispensaries in the country, and has been called a model business by city officials.

Harborside employs over 100 people and is Oakland’s second largest retail tax payer. In 2011, Harborside paid combined taxes in excess of $3 million, over a million dollars of which went directly to the City of Oakland.

Harborside was served with a civil complaint for “forfeiture of property” at both their Oakland and San Jose locations in July 2012 as part of an ongoing crusade against compliant medical marijuana dispensaries by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.

Haag said the federal government has the right to take the properties under the Controlled Substances Act, a law created to fight the sale and distribution of drugs considered illegal by the federal government.

Lawyers for the city counter that the Justice Department is acting contrary to its stated policy on medical marijuana and that the government cannot seize Harborside’s property because of an expired federal statute of limitations.

They also argue that closing Harborside would “affect the city in a negative way,” as shuttering the dispensary would create a public safety and health hazard as thousands of medical marijuana patients would be forced to turn to the black market for marijuana.

Harborside has been licensed by the City of Oakland without incident since 2006.

City of Oakland Back in Court to Fight Closure of Harborside Medical Marijuana Dispensary was written by and appears in full on The Daily Chronic.

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