Harborside Dispensary Wins Temporary Victory in Federal Court

Attorneys representing the City of Oakland, which is fighting federal prosecutors to keep open the doors of renowned medical marijuana dispensary Harborside Health Center, scored a victory earlier this month, with a federal judge ruling the center may remain open while an earlier verdict is appealed.
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Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers know that is likely to buy the center at least a year, if not 15 months or so. That’s not only good news for Harborside, it’s good news for the many hundreds of chronically or acutely ill patients who rely on the center to provide safe access to quality product.

Judge Marie-Elena James of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, granted a motion to stay for the city in Oakland v. Holder.

Harborside began operating back in 2006. It was upheld as a model dispensary, managing a well-run operation that was a benefit to the community in terms of not only taxes but also numerous charity contributions. Of course, it helps tremendously that the city has a functioning regulatory system for the distribution of medicinal cannabis. The system worked very well for all, until the feds decided to get involved for the simple fact that Harborside had gotten “too big.” (Mind you, there is nothing in state law or city code that limited the size of such an operation.)

When federal prosecutors moved to shut Harborside down, city officials protested. To do so would decimate the system the city had in place, effectively forcing medical marijuana patients to buy drugs off the street. This would result in not only a scourge of non-permitted shops, but also likely an uptick in crime.

What the prosecutors have been attempting to do is shutter Harborside through a civil forfeiture action. This is a statute that allows authorities to seize property purchased by or used for the purposes of illegal drug profits. The suit targets Harborside’s landlord. Still, the City of Oakland had attempted to step in, saying it had a vested public safety interest in keeping the facility open.

Federal prosecutors issued a motion to dismiss the city’s case, on the basis that the city had no legal standing. Judge James granted that motion back in February. However, the city is appealing that decision.

In the meantime, the judge has now said the dispensary can remain open while that appeal is pending.

The trial for the federal civil forfeiture case won’t happen until after the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hears the city’s appeal. At minimum, that could take 15 months.

We would sincerely hope that during this time, federal prosecutors efforts are redirected. The fact is, these attacks perpetuated throughout California are, at best, misguided. Not only have these strong-arm tactics resulted in the loss of thousands of good jobs, it’s drained millions of dollars in tax revenue and resulted in the loss of freedom for those simply trying to provide a valuable service. Not only that, patients and communities are endangered and drug cartels and street gangs are made wealthier.

Oakland had a great system – one to be emulated, not destroyed.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Oakland Wins: Harborside Open Another 15 Months – At Least, July 3, 2013, By David Downs, East Bay Express
More Blog Entries:
Marijuana Banking a Tough Sell, But Lawmakers Seek Change, July 14, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog