US Attorney Is Defying Congress, Harborside Argues

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The federal government returns to court to continue its attempted seizure of the world’s largest medical cannabis dispensary — Harborside Health Center of Oakland — today. But there’s a new wrinkle in the case.

Melinda Haag, the US attorney for the Northern District of California, is breaking a new federal law that protects state-legal medical cannabis businesses, according to Oakland dispensary Harborside Health Center. - USDOJ
  • USDOJ
  • Melinda Haag, the US attorney for the Northern District of California, is breaking a new federal law that protects state-legal medical cannabis businesses, according to Oakland dispensary Harborside Health Center.
Congress de-funded the federal war on medical marijuana in December, using an amendment to the so-called "Cromnibus Spending Bill." Harborside planned to argue this morning at a San Francisco federal courthouse that the office of US Attorney Melinda Haag of the Northern District of California is “defying” Congress and breaking federal law to pursue the club.

“Unless government lawyers are working on a volunteer basis, they are breaking the law,” stated Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director of Harborside Health Center.


Haag's office has made no public comment on the implications of Congress' order to stop going after state-legal medical cannabis businesses. Department of Justice spokespeople in Washington, DC told us they are reviewing the issue.

At issue in federal appeals court today is the City of Oakland’s ability to sue the federal government to stop the closure of Harborside. Lawyers for Oakland state that closing Harborside creates a public health and safety crisis, sending tens of thousands of sick patients to the streets to buy the still federally illegal botanical.

The Mercury News reports: “Government lawyers, however, still argue that Oakland has no legal basis to block the Harborside forfeiture and interfere with enforcement of federal drug laws. 'The city cannot plausibly claim to be in the zone of interests protected by the federal law at issue here,’ Justice Department lawyers told the 9th Circuit.”

In July 2012, Haag moved to seize Harborside Health Center’s two retail properties as part of a broad campaign against California’s most visible, lawful, and best-regulated dispensaries. Harborside is the number two sales taxpayer in all of Oakland.

In October, 2012, the City of Oakland sued to block the forfeiture. A lower court ruling in 2013 dismissed Oakland vs. Eric Holder, Jr. , and the city’s appeal of that ruling is now before the Ninth Circuit. Whatever the outcome in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the ruling will likely be appealed to the US Supreme Court, pushing the case out another two years. Harborside remains open for business and its founder states that it will never abandon California patients. 

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