Is the federal government about to stop fighting state-legal cannabis? Read on:
The case began in 2012. Under former U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, federal prosecutors filed suit against Harborside in an attempt to shutter the business. They also served the dispensary and its landlord with civil forfeiture notices in a bid to pressure Harborside to close and seize the buildings that housed its dispensaries in Oakland and San Jose.
Over the years, federal prosecutors targeted more than 600 dispensaries across California using the asset forfeiture tactic and other strategies. It sent shockwaves through the industry. Harborside, for its part, managed to keep its doors open. But others were forced to close.
The situation eventually began to change, however, as the federal government loosened its position on the marijuana industry and failed to gain traction in legal battles against cannabis businesses.
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. . . that Harborside’s case was going to rest on the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which Congress first approved in 2014 in a one-year budget bill and then renewed last year. The measure prevents the U.S. government from spending federal dollars to crack down on MMJ businesses in state-regulated markets.
“I told (the DOJ) that it was going to be our position that under the Rohrabacher-Farr budget rider that they couldn’t spend any time pursuing this case anymore, because that’s not what the DOJ was supposed to use their funds for,” Wykowski said. “I think that the DOJ thought about that and realized … they would probably lose.”
About a week ago, in fact, the DOJ came back and offered to dismiss the entire forfeiture case if everyone involved, including multiple Harborside patients tied to the case, would agree not to file any further legal claims. It took until Monday to get all involved parties to sign, Wykowski said.
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Steve and Andrew DeAngelo fought the law … and the brothers won. The duo scored a major legal victory this week after the U.S. Department of Justice dropped its high-stakes legal case against their prominent dispensary, California-based Harborside Health Center. The four-year battle threatened to close Harborside, one of the nation’s largest and oldest dispensaries, and potentially other medical marijuana businesses if a court ruled in the DOJ’s favor.
The case was at one point the biggest news in the marijuana industry, as it stoked fears that the federal government would use civil forfeiture laws to successfully shut down dispensaries across the country. But Tuesday’s decision suggests cannabis businesses complying with state laws will probably be safe from federal prosecution for the foreseeable future, experts said. It also represents another nail in the coffin for government attempts to stifle the industry.
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