Chief Federal Magistrate Maria-Elena James on Monday ruled in favor of Harborside Health Center, which describes itself as the biggest nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary in the United States, and denied motions by Harborside’s landlords asking the court to order an immediate halt to the sales of medicinal cannabis at their properties.
Judge James also declined to grant a motion from the City of Oakland to immediately halt the federal government’s legal efforts to close Harborside, but scheduled a hearing later this month to hear more arguments in the City of Oakland’s lawsuit against the Feds in a 17-page opinion [PDF]
described by Harborside as “highly significant.”
“We are grateful that Judge James carefully considered the facts and arguments in the Harborside case, and decided to grant us our day in court,” said Harborside Health Center Executive Director Steve DeAngelo. “We have always believed that a Bay Area jury will recognize the value that Harborside brings to the community, and refuse to allow the federal government to seize the properties where we are located.
|Steve Elliott ~alapoet~
|Steve DeAngelo, Harborside Health Center: “We look forward to proving our case in front of a jury, and continue to believe we will prevail”
“We look forward to proving our case in front of a jury, and continue to believe we will prevail,” DeAngelo said. “In the meantime, we ask the Department of Justice to immediately freeze enforcement actions against Harborside and any other cannabis providers acting in full compliance with state law.
“Our nation’s law enforcement officers should concentrate on real crime,” DeAngelo said.
In addition, the court found that entering injunctions against Harborside would not be an appropriate means of preventing illegal use of the property and that “there is nothing … indicating that Harborside’s continued operation compromises the existence, value, or title or either the Oakland or San Jose Property.”
“Any argument about the urgency of stopping Harborside’s activities rings hollow,” the court ruling stated.
“We are gratified that Judge James listened to and analyzed the parties’ arguments so thoroughly and has now rendered an opinion that will ensure Harborside has the right to present its case to a jury,” said Henry Wykowski, Harborside’s lead attorney. “Despite the government’s efforts to shortcut the case, Harborside will now be able to fully defend itself at trial. That is all we had asked, and the court has now agreed.
“The stage is now set for a jury trial on the underlying issues of the litigation, which will probably take place in about one year,” Wykowski said.
Notably, in response to initial federal forfeiture actions, Harborside attorneys cited the statute of limitations, as Harborside has been in business for more than six years. All other claimants in these proceedings, including the City of Oakland, have adopted this defense.
Harborside has locations in Oakland and San Jose, California. The collective was cofounded in 2006 by Steve DeAngelo, and serves about 100,000 registered patients. Harborside offers patients free holistic health services, lab-tested cannabis and infused products, a low-income care package program, and substance misuse support and education.