The city of Oakland’s fight to protect the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, Harborside Health Center, may be over.
The city may no longer continue its legal fight against the forfeiture of a building that houses Harborside, a dispensary which makes millions of dollars every year, according to a ruling from Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James. James ejected the city from the case, leaving Harborside the fight the government alone.
Harborside representatives said on Thursday that the decision doesn’t weaken their fight against U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and her effort to shut down the dispensary, which serves as a safe access point for thousands of medical marijuana patients.
James’ ruling focused on whether Oakland had the right to sue the federal government over the forfeiture. The judge did not offer an opinion on the defenses Harborside plans to present in an upcoming jury trial, according to the dispensary’s lawyer, Henry Wykowski.
“The ruling does not affect Harborside’s case or its defenses,” Wykowski said. “It merely indicates that Oakland will not be able to prevent the U.S. Attorney from proceeding.
Oakland has endorsed Harborside and heaps praises on the business for strictly adhering to the laws of California and Oakland’s city ordinances. City Attorney Barbara Parker said she was disappointed by the ruling; she said she’d meet with the city’s outside counsel to decide if it should be repealed. San Francisco-based law firm Morrison Foerster is handling the case for free.
City Attorney Parker said that Oakland should be allowed to continue fighting the federal government because it has a different interest than either Harborside or the landlord who houses the dispensary.
“It’s a public health impacte if we cannot provide those services,” Parker said. “The city has a different interest, that is an interest of finance and that is an interest to protect public safety.”
Oakland has argued that closing down Harborside would present a public health hazard, since it would force hundreds of medical marijuana patients to seek their medicine on the black market.
The city also argued that the move would hurt the city’s budget, since Harborside generates more than $1 million a year in tax revenue.
With Oakland banned from the Harborside case, attorneys for the Department of Justice, Harborside, and the two landlords who lease space to the dispensary will meet to begin setting trial dates.