Marijuana Activists Protest Obama’s Visit To Oakland


All photos by Jack Rikess

By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent

Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center

Oakland, California: Starting at noon a few hundred cannabis supporters and activists gathered on the steps of Oakland’s City Hall to show support for Harborside Health Center and to protest President Obama’s early evening fundraiser at the picturesque Fox Theater. 
On July 11, Harborside Health Center in Oakland and San Jose was served an official Complaint for Forfeiture of Property. The complaint is signed by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, Assistant U.S. Attorney Arvan Perteet, and DEA Agent David White, filed on July 6 in the District Court, San Francisco Division and received by the court on Sunday, July 9. The complaint seeks forfeiture of real estate and improvements on the grounds that cannabis is being distributed on the premises, in violation of federal law.
Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside, Libertarian vice-presidential candidate Judge Jim Gray, and others spoke under the hot East Bay sun to the cheers and applause of the cannabis crowd that assembled in the commons of City Hall. 

“This is a watershed moment for the movement. If the Feds can come after Harborside, then no other dispensary in the country is safe,” DeAngelo said. 

After the speakers were done, fans and supporters came up for autographs and to have their picture taken with DeAngelo. A few said that they relied on his dispensary for their medicine and weren’t sure what they were going to do now. 
The police and Secret Service had most of the local businesses close shop by 1:00 p.m. The alleys and some of the side streets were barricaded for security reasons shutting down access to Broadway where Oaksterdam University is located. Luckily, Francesca, a local business woman, showed me the way.
“I’m glad that President Obama is coming to Oakland today,” Francesca said. “I wish he’d visit some of our more troubled areas, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m from Boston… I lived there under Romney. He was good for Massachusetts, but he’s not that guy anymore. I voted for Obama and will again.”

Do you have any feelings about the cannabis issue?
“I think it’s silly what they’re doing. Alcohol is worse and they tax that. I don’t do it but I know people who use it. It helps them. I’ve worked in the area for about three years and it’s sad what happen to Oaksterdam University. Richard Lee did a lot to revitalize this area,” Francesca said as she dropped me off at Oaksterdam.
Green flags were posted by local businesses along the streets of Oakland showing solidarity for the cannabis cause. Harborside Health Center is Oakland’s second largest tax provider. A few of the shop keepers I spoke with cautiously wondered if Oakland was going to be able to find the revenue that both Oaksterdam and Harborside provided to the city.
At 2 p.m., Richard Lee joined Steve DeAngelo and others on the Oaksterdam stage for a press conference. As usual, Richard let the others do the talking.

“In light of the recent violence in Colorado, as a new mother… this is so tragic. I’m a community organizer like the head of our current administration once was. We both want the same thing…Safe communities. It is tragic for the families of the victims that… in light of the recent shutdowns… that Law Enforcement doesn’t have their full attention.”
~ Dale Sky Jones, Executive Chancellor Oaksterdam University
“The harder you get with drug crimes; the softer you get with everything else.

“I was an assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles. I really care about my office. This is simply not the right thing to do. It just makes no sense at all.
“Closing down Harborside, closing down Oaksterdam, nothing good will come out of it. The rational for doing this eludes me. You are now going to have patients who cannot get their medicine tested.  The patients will now have to go underground. This will not result in less marijuana being sold in Oakland or elsewhere. It will just push money to the cartels and gangs. 
“I sense a change today. I suggest the slogan hereafter is, ‘The Hempire Strikes Back!’
“If Obama is reelected… If Governor Romney gets elected: There won’t be any dispensaries left in the next year or two.”
~ Jim Gray, Libertarian Vice-President Candidate, former U.S. Attorney, former Judge Advocate General’s Corp of U.S. Navy, former Presiding Judge Superior Court of Orange County
“Obama’s Department of Justice is carrying out an unauthorized war on medical marijuana but also not only violates the president’s stated policies but also conflicts with his campaign promises and Eric Holder’s testimony before Congress last month. Holder reassured the House Judiciary Committee that DOJ was following the Ogden memo (the Justice Department memo that states to go after medical marijuana businesses that DO NOT comply with state law). But we know, especially here in Oakland… that couldn’t be farther from the truth.”  
~ Aaron Smith, National Cannabis Industry Association Director

“I would like to thank the thousand of messages of support… sent to us from all over the world… even to our secret supporters in the Department of Justice. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
“We have gathered today to ask President Obama to ensure that all federal enforcement actions against medical cannabis targets are consistent with Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent sworn testimony to Congress, in which he said, ‘We limit our enforcement actions to individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law.’
“The best way to accomplish that
goal is with an immediate freeze on all such enforcement actions, and a DOJ review at the highest levels, to make sure they are consistent with administration policy. We respectfully remind the President of the promise he made to medical cannabis patients, and ask him to take action immediately.
~ Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director of Harborside Health Center

The police had photographers along the protest route taking pictures

After the press conference, by then the number of protesters on the street easily hit a thousand. They marched through the streets of Oakland, stopping traffic. Some people were irate while others honked and smiled in unity. The police had photographers along the protest route taking pictures, raising a few eyebrows and smiles from the passing dissenters.
By 4:30 p.m. the planned protest at City Hall was over. Exiting, the protesters walked by the lines of folks standing behind metal barricades waiting to see President Obama at the Fox Theater. The protesters questioned the Obama faithful about what the president’s policies concerning medical marijuana in California? 
“He’s better than Romney.”  “I love Obama.” “Smoke some more pot!” 
Ironically and maybe optimistically, most of the people in attendance on either sides of the metal fence were essentially liberals at heart. A few of those in line waiting to see the President knew some of the protesters personally and visa-versa.
Soon there were people on both sides of the issues talking and laughing as old friends saw each other again. 
It was a nice note to end on after a heated day on the streets. 

Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco

Jack Rikess, a former st
and-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.