Harborside Health Center, California's largest and most well-known medical marijuana dispensary, has been targeted for closure by federal prosecutors. Workers at the dispensary's home base in Oakland and at its second store in San Jose found complaints from US Attorney Melinda Haag's office taped to their doors when they came to work Monday morning.
In the past year, federal prosecutors in California have undertaken a concerted campaign against dispensaries, sending out more than 300 letters to dispensaries or landlords threatening asset forfeiture or criminal prosecution or both. More than 400 dispensaries have closed their doors during that same period, many of them because of the federal threats.
If Harborside is going to join that list, it won't be without a fight.
"Harborside has nothing to hide or be ashamed of," said 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.
Shutting down Harborside would be a major blow to Oakland. The dispensary employs over a hundred people there and is the city's second largest retail tax payer. Of more than $3 million in combined taxes paid by Harborside last year, more than a million went to the city.
"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."
Harborside and its supporters are gathering their forces for what promises to be a long and bruising battle with the Justice Department. This story is just getting underway.