The City of Oakland has officially joined the fight to preserve medical marijuana in Northern California. Last week they filed suit against the federal government on behalf of Harborside Health Center, the largest pot dispensary in the country. This is the same Harborside that the IRS came after last year for $2.5 million in back taxes, and which in July was threatened with federal seizure. Oakland's lawsuit argues that the feds have gone beyond the statute of limitations for civil forfeiture of a dispensary, which is only five years. Harborside has been in business since 2006.
The seizure threat is new for U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, whose previous crackdown efforts around the Bay Area have primarily focused on violations of local statutes about distances from playgrounds and schools. In this case, the federal government was simply saying to Harborside, "You are selling illegal drugs, and therefore we can seize your property."
Harborside does some $22 million in business in each of the last couple of years, serving 600 to 800 customers a day. The government appears to be making an example of them, or prioritizing them as it were, because of their size. But Oakland's got their back! The suit names Haag and Attorney General Eric Holder, and does not seek monetary damages. Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker tells Oakland North, "If the federal government is successful in having this business shut down, it undermines the city’s ability to regulate medical cannabis."