California's Most Well-known Medical Marijuana Dispensary Slapped with Federal Asset Forfeiture Suit

Oakland, CA -- California's most well-known medical marijuana dispensary, Harborside Health Center, was served with a civil complaint for "forfeiture of property" on Monday for both of their locations in Oakland and San Jose. The Oakland dispensary has been fully permitted and operating since 2006 without incident. The forfeiture action is against the "third-party" property owner, Real Property and Improvements, and was filed by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who last October announced with the other U.S. Attorneys an escalated campaign against medical marijuana dispensaries and growers.

Attorney General Eric Holder and his U.S. Attorneys have indicated they are not targeting medical marijuana establishments in compliance with state law. However, this forfeiture lawsuit and other federal actions indicate otherwise. Just four days after Attorney General Holder testified before Congress in June that his Justice Department would only undertake enforcement action against medical marijuana organizations operating "out of conformity with state law," armed federal agents raided El Camino Wellness, a respected -- and fully permitted -- medical cannabis dispensary in Sacramento, California.
What: Press conference in reaction to asset forfeiture lawsuit against Harborside's landlord
When: Thursday, July 12th at 9am
Where: Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza
Who: Appearances and statements by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, City Council member Rebecca Kaplan, State Board of Equalization representative, as well as other city and state officials, and affected patients
"Harborside has nothing to hide or be ashamed of," said Harborside Executive Director Steve DeAngelo in a prepared statement. "We will contest the DOJ action openly and in public, and through all legal means at our disposal. We look forward to our day in court, and are confident that justice is on our side." Harborside maintains that it has complied with all local and state laws and that it was not within 1,000 feet of a school, another rationale the Justice Department is using to target dispensaries even though state law is set at 600 feet.

Since the U.S. Attorney announcement last October, more than 400 dispensaries have shut down in California, mostly from the specter of federal criminal prosecution or asset forfeiture. At least 300 letters have been sent to property owners around the state, threatening federal action if they don't evict their dispensary tenants. However, only about half a dozen such actions have been taken. The most recent is against Harborside.

Harborside employs over 100 people and is Oakland's second largest retail tax payer. Last year, Harborside paid combined taxes in excess of $3 million, over a million dollars of which went directly to the City of Oakland. Should Harborside be forced to close, tens of thousands of patients will be forced to return to the illicit market.

"The claim by the Obama Administration that it's not undermining the laws of medical marijuana states like California is becoming less and less tenable," said Don Duncan, California Director of Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group. "The Attorney General and the president must be held accountable for actions by their U.S. Attorneys that are harming untold numbers of patients." Duncan will be speaking at tomorrow's press conference.

Further information:
Asset forfeiture civil complaint for Oakland property:
Asset forfeiture civil complaint for San Jose property:

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