Oakland councilperson responds to Harborside Health Center targeting by feds

Pub date July 12, 2012
SectionPolitics Blog

Have you heard the news about our most Hollywood dispensary getting put on notice by the feds? Harborside Health Center staff, stars of everyone’s favorite marijuana reality show Weed Wars, arrived to work July 9 to a letter from US Attorney Melinda Haag.

She’s no one’s favorite pen pal in the medical cannabis industry these days. (xoxo) In the letter, she filed civil forfeiture actions against Harborside, despite the fact that unlike most of her office’s previous targets, the two Harborside dispensaries are not within 1,000 feet of a school or park. After the federal raid of educational institution Oaksterdam University in April it seems that now, all dispensaries are fair game for federal targeting. This could be curtains for patients’ safe and easy access to cannabis. 

Haag explained her office’s reasoning in a statement released yesterday.

This office has used its limited resources to address those marijuana dispensaries that operate close to schools, parks and playgrounds. As I have said in the past, this is a non-exclusive list of factors relevant to whether we should commence civil forfeiture actions against marijuana properties, and circumstances may require us to address other situations. 

I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside. The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state’s medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need.

The filing of the civil forfeiture complaints against the two Harborside properties is part of our measured effort to address the proliferation of illegal marijuana businesses in the Northern District of California.

Basically, no rationale for targeting Harborside besides the fact that it’s a big operation (probably the largest in California.) The situation echoes the recent federal raid of cannabis educational institution Oaksterdam University. Harborside has struggled in the past with castigating audits by the IRS, which declared that the collective was unable to claim simple business expenses on its taxes. 

Oakland city councilperson Rebecca Kaplan recently released a statement in response. Here is the full text:

We are disappointed to learn that yet another licensed, legal and locally regulated medical cannabis facility has come under federal attack.

The last time that the federal government used its resources to go after a permitted facility with no history of crime or violence, there was a school shooting taking place across town while federal agents tagged and bagged medical marijuana plants.

We can’t let this happen again.

The Justice Department has said in the past that it wouldn’t target medical marijuana.

They went back on their word – starting to target medical cannabis facilities allowed under California law.  Then, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said they are specifically targeting cannabis facilities located within 1,000 feet of parks and schools.

Let’s be clear: Harborside Health Center is in compliance with our democratically-enacted laws – and is not near either a park or a school.

During the raid on Oaksterdam University, the federal government used cops – this time they’re using lawyers.

If federal prosecutors have extra time available, I ask – on behalf of my constituents all across the city – that they instead prosecute the illegal gun dealers who are the source of death and violence in Oakland.

Federal agents have worked successfully with local law enforcement this year to go after guns and violence – and we are deeply thankful and appreciative of that help.

That’s what we need more of.

If there are federal resources available, we need them directed against the violent perpetrators and co-conspirators of the senseless gun violence on our streets. 

Local news media reported recently that, on the day of the federal raid and the school shooting, local law enforcement said the federal raid against Oaksterdam University ‘drained the vast majority of [the department’s] west-end staffing thus resulting in several priority calls being stacked — something that might have [been] prevented.

Wasting resources going after legal, licensed and locally regulated medical marijuana facilities is not only inappropriate, but directly harms our ability to fight crime and respond to violence in our city.

We respectfully ask the Justice Department to devote any available resources to fight gun crime and stop the interstate flow of illegal guns into our city.

Thank you.