The feds have gone after Harborside, using the “avoid the discussion” tactic of asset forfeiture. “The federal government is moving to shut down the nation’s largest and highest-profile medical marijuana dispensary operation, filing papers to seize properties in Oakland and San Jose where Harborside Health Center does business. Copies of the federal Complaint for Forfeiture were taped to the front doors of the two dispensaries Tuesday, alleging that they were “operating in violation of federal law.”
The U.S. attorney for Northern California, Melinda Haag, said she now found “the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside” because they presented unique opportunities for abuse. Notice, please, how she says “opportunities” for abuse, NOT proof of ANY actual abuse. Excuse me for interrupting.
Harborside was co-founded by outspoken marijuana activist Steve DeAngelo in 2006 and was the subject of a reality show, “Weed Wars,” on the Discovery Channel last year. While other dispensary operators have sought a low profile since California’s four U.S. attorneys began cracking down on the industry in October, DeAngelo has consistently railed against the federal intervention, advocated for better state regulations and become a leader in the movement. “People are not going to stop using cannabis, they’re just going to buy it in the illegal marketplace … on the streets,” he said Wednesday in an interview. “Why are federal prosecutors using their discretion to do something so profoundly destructive?”
California’s medical marijuana laws are nebulous in regard to how the drug is to be distributed and courts have yet to settle the matter. Still, marijuana activists often hail Harborside as a model of professionalism and compliance. Its main facility in Oakland is one of four independent enterprises permitted and strictly regulated by the city. “If Harborside is not in compliance with state law, no one is,” said DeAngelo, 54.
The Oakland dispensary was awarded its permit in 2006 after the city put out a request for proposals. DeAngelo says it does about $22 million in annual sales, and the San Jose shop does about $8 million. Together they pay about $3 million in city and state sales taxes, and employ more than 100 people. The state Board of Equalization estimates it collects $58 million to $105 million in annual sales tax from dispensaries. “If we continue to drive everything underground, we’re going to create an unsafe environment for patients who need this product … and lose revenue,” board member Betty Yee said.
“The city of Oakland has developed a system to assure such distribution occurs according to state law in a fair and orderly process,” Nancy Nadel, member of the Oakland City Council and vice mayor of the city, said in a statement. “It is most unjust to our citizen patients and distributors who have followed local guidelines to be harassed and treated as criminals by federal officials.” Medical marijuana advocates said the Obama administration has repeatedly reneged on its promises that it would not meddle with the state laws.
The Justice Department has sent more than 200 letters to dispensaries and their landlords, threatening to seize their property if the shops do not close. It has been an effective strategy. With the letters, raids by the Drug Enforcement Administration and IRS audits, the government has forced more than 400 to close in the state, including the nearby Berkeley Patients Group, which was also seen as a model in the industry and closely regulated by local officials.
There have only been half a dozen cases in which federal prosecutors actually filed an asset forfeiture complaint, as they did with Harborside. Got to make an example out of someone, I guess. And this guy had the nerve to go on the TeeVee and talk about it. Not going to have that! Got to nip that in the bud (pun intended)!
Original source material can be found here.
[image: Google images California]
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