Why Oakland Has Cause To Fight For Harborside Collective

Why Oakland Has Cause To Fight For Harborside Collective

The city of Oakland sued the feds approximately three months after the office of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed a civil forfeiture action against Harborside’s landlord, citing the federal Controlled Substance Act, a law that allows governments to take properties used in the sale of illegal drugs.

As the city of Oakland squares off with the federal government over Harborside medical marijuana collective, their primary argument for why it should be permitted to contest a federal effort to close the nation’s largest dispensary was summed up by federal prosecutor as “window dressing” that disregards federal law.

Kathryn Wyer, the DOJ’s go to attack dog, argued that Oakland’s attorneys are struggling to avoid federal drug and forfeiture laws and are suing the federal government over its choice to pursue to seize a building run by Harborside Medical Center.

The DOJ’s explanations of Oakland’s intent was heard by Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James, who will choose if Oakland has the right to proceed with its lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

The city’s attorneys, headed up by Cedric Chao, a hired gun from outside the community, have appealed that Oakland has the right to dispute the federal actions because shutting down Harborside collective would cause significant injury to the city’s ill residents.

Additionally, the city has noted the feds decision to shut down Harborside…only after allowing it to operate for approximately 6 years, violates federal statute of limitations.

The city of Oakland sued the feds approximately three months after the office of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed a civil forfeiture action against Harborside’s landlord, citing the federal Controlled Substance Act, a law that allows governments to take properties used in the sale of illegal drugs.

Since the federal government has refused to recognize marijuana’s medical purposes, all sales of the drug, even if allowed under state law, are illegal under federal law.

In it’s lawsuit against the federal government, Oakland argued that it had no other legal recoursebut to file a suit in an attempt to stop the forfeiture. The city also said it had a right to sue because the federal government’s action would severely harm the city socially, criminally and financially.

Harborside generates about $1.4 million in yearly tax revenue for Oakland and provides medical marijuana to tens of thousands of patients, Chao said. If it was forced to close, Oakland would lose the revenue and, at the same time, be forced to deal with a new underground drug business that will be created by Harborside’s patients looking in the streets of Oakland for marijuana, Chao said.

“Oakland is trying to uphold its very detailed statute on medical cannabis; Oakland is trying to protect public health,” Chao said. “The harm is extreme and dangerous.”

But Wyer said that Oakland should not be allowed to sue to stop the forfeiture because it does not have a direct interest in the property from where Harborside operates.

Under federal forfeiture laws, only an entity with direct connections to a property can challenge the government’s actions. And, the law states, such a challenge must be made within 60 days of the government’s announcement that it was going to seize the property. Wyer said Oakland failed to meet both of those requirements.

Wyer also said Oakland’s arguments that the closing of Harborside would create a public health and safety issue are not pertinent to the narrow scope of a forfeiture action.

In fact, she said, it appeared Oakland was simply trying to avoid making arguments about medical marijuana that have already been overruled by the Supreme Court, which found several years ago that under federal law there is no medical purpose for marijuana.

James listened intently to the arguments and her questions did not signify which way she will rule on the issue.

If James agrees with the federal attorneys, Oakland’s case will be dismissed. If she rules in favor of the city, a future hearing will take place.