Oakland City Sues U.S. to Stop Medical Marijuana Seizure

Posted By Urban News Hour | October 11, 2012

Oakland, Caifornia – The city of Oakland took a unusual step, filing a law suit against the federal government in an attempt to stop them from seizing property leased by the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary.

Harborside Health Center is a medical cannabis dispensary operating under a permit issued by the City of Oakland. The property, which federal authorities said was valued at around $2 millionis is owned by Ana Chretien, owner of ABC Security, one of the East Bay’s most politically powerful security companies. Her company has had contracts with the city of Oakland, Alameda County and the Port of Oakland, including Oakland International Airport.

Harborside Health Center, was served with a notice on Wednesday July 11, 2012, taped to the front door reading, “Complaint for Forfeiture of Property” signed by Melinda Haag the U.S. attorney for Northern California.

Although, the notice contradicts the promises by officials with the Obama administration who have said that dispensaries complying with state laws would not be targeted by federal agencies.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has said Harborside violates California’s law, because it is a large-scale operation that processes millions of dollars worth of business.

Harborside Health Center and the city’s three other dispensaries brought in at least $1.4 million in business tax revenue to Oakland last year. In 2009, Harborside alone generated at least $21 million in sales, all of which were also subject to sales taxes, which are 8.75 percent in Alameda County.

In an interview, Oakland City Atty. Barbara J. Parker said the lawsuit “is about protecting the rights of legitimate patients who need this medicine” and “doing everything we can to assure that this pipeline is not shut off.”

Prop.215, passed by California voters in 1996, and the “Medical Marijuana Program Act” passed by the state legislature in 2003 as the foundations of Oakland’s own regulatory regime for medical cannabis shops.

In 2003, the California Legislature passed the “Medical Marijuana Program Act,” which provided guidelines for the implementation of the Compassionate Use Act, including a voluntary patient identification card program.

The case is being handled pro bono by the San Francisco law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.

“The federal government has acted beyond its authority by initiating the forfeiture action outside of the statute of limitations,” stated Cedric Chao, co-representative of Oakland, at law firm Morrison & Foerster.

Harborside Health Center’s 100,000 patients brace themselves for a long, complex, and legal battle.

Parker and Chao are former Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Northern District of California.

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