Oakland Fights Back Against Federal Medical Marijuana Asset Forfeiture


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Oakland Lawsuit in U.S. District Court to Stop Seizure of Property of Oakland Dispensary
Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker and San Francisco law firm Morrison & Foerster have announced that the City of Oakland filed a complaint Wednesday in United States District Court to stop the federal government from seizing an Oakland building used by a medical marijuana dispensary.
“This is a great day for medical marijuana patients and for the residents of Oakland,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana patients’ advocacy organization. “City Attorney Parker is ray of sunshine for all patients who have been watching the federal government jeopardize their access to medical marijuana.”

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Steph Sherer, Americans for Safe Access: “This is a great day for medical marijuana patients and for the residents of Oakland”

“We all know that the federal government is overstepping its reach in states with medical marijuana laws,” Sherer said. “It is wonderful to see that the City of Oakland is continuing to stand up for its legal patients.”
The city’s lawsuit is the latest development in a federal escalation against medical marijuana providers in California announced at a press conference by the state’s four U.S. Attorneys in October of last year. The escalation has seen renewed raids at medical marijuana facilities by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and threats and actual civil asset forfeiture cases, which allow the federal government to confiscate assets and real property, against property owners who rent to medical marijuana tenants. 
“We are very pleased that the City of Oakland has taken on the challenge of protecting patients’ rights from the harsh, wrong-minded actions of the federal government,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel for ASA. “This legal action demonstrates that localities that support safe and legal access to medical marijuana can make a difference in this struggle with the federal government.”

Joe Elford, Americans for Safe Access: “We are very pleased that the City of Oakland has taken on the challenge of protecting patients’ rights from the harsh, wrong-minded actions of the federal government”

“This complaint spells out how medical marijuana patients weren’t the only ones who were duped by Obama’s statements about medical marijuana,” Elford said. “The City of Oakland alleges in its lawsuit that it believed that the federal government would not disturb medical marijuana dispensaries that operate in compliance with state law. Obama has broken this promise.”  
“The property at 1840 Embarcadero is the location of the Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary operating under a permit issued by the City of Oakland,” the city’s press release stated. “In July, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California filed a forfeiture action against the real property where the dispensary is located. The City’s lawsuit does not seek damages, but asks the court to enjoin and declare unlawful the federal government’s attempt to close down the dispensary.
Harborside and the city’s three other medical marijuana dispensaries were responsible for at least $1.4 million in business tax revenue to Oakland last year, reports Matthai Kuruvila at SF Gate. In 2009, Harborside alone had at least $21 million in sales, all of which were also subject to sales taxes — 8.75 percent in Alameda County.
“The City of Oakland carefully created a regulatory scheme for medical marijuana dispensaries in order to maintain public health and safety, including the issuance of permits, the monitoring of licensed dispensaries, annual auditing of the dispensaries’ financial statements, and employee background checks to ensure compliance with state and city law,” the City’s press release states.
“This lawsuit is about protecting the rights of legitimate medical patients,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said in the city’s release. “I am deeply dismayed that the federal government would seek to deny these rights and deprive thousands of seriously ill Californians of access to safe, affordable and effective medicine.
“As Oakland’s City Attorney, I strongly oppose federal actions against Oakland businesses that are complying with state and local laws and paying their fair share of taxes,” City Attorney Parker said. “My hope is that the federal government will focus its resources on the real crisis in Oakland — violent crime and illegal guns that are snuffing out so many lives. In the midst of this crisis, it is a tragic waste for the federal government to spend its time and resources cracking down on legitimate health care providers.”
This lawsuit follows the closer of hundreds of dispensaries across the country due to threats of asset forfeiture over past year. 
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