In a landmark first for an American city government, officials in Oakland approved a lawsuit this week in hopes of saving Harborside Health Center, better known as America’s largest pot shop.
The City of Oakland collects more than $1 million in taxes every year from sales at regulated medical marijuana dispensaries; Harborside is the largest among them with more than 100,000 customers. However, Harborside is under threat of being seized by federal authorities after U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag warned that they’re violating federal law.
The city’s lawsuit argues that Harborside has been open and operating legally under state and local laws since 2006, which they hope means it’s beyond the law’s five-year statute of limitations on property seizures. City officials also expressed concern that forcing more than 100,000 medical marijuana patients into the black market may have negative effects on public health and safety.
Haag’s office initiated eviction proceedings against Harborside’s landlord under civil seizure laws earlier this year. The shop is also facing a massive tax bill due to years worth of business expense deductions being ruled illegal. Oakland’s “Oaksterdam University” was also tarted in a similar manner, which triggered a SWAT raid in April. Oaksterdam’s founder, who donated millions to California’s failed marijuana legalization initiative in 2010, has since resigned.
President Barack Obama, for his part, clarified in April that he never promised to “give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana,” saying that he cannot nullify laws passed by Congress. Obama added that he does not believe it is a good use of resources to pursue sick and dying patients who use the drug in states where it is legalized.
Just 17 states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical marijuana, even though a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey found earlier this year that 74 percent of Americans think doctors should be able to recommend the drug.
Correction: A prior version of this story said the U.S. Attorney’s office was attempting to evict Harborside for a zoning violation. They are attempting to evict the shop by seizing the landlord’s property instead.
Raw Story is a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media. While giving coverage to the big stories of the day, we also bring our readers' attention to policy, politics, legal and human rights stories that get ignored in an infotainment culture driven solely by pageviews.
Founded in 2004, Raw Story reaches 5 million unique readers per month and serves more than 19 million pageviews.