Judge spares nation’s largest pot shop from eviction again

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, January 9, 2013 10:23 EDT
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Harborside Health Clinic owner Steve DeAngelo. Photo: Screenshot via YouTube.
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The landlords of the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary cannot be evicted just yet, thanks to a judge’s determination that the business is operating legally in accordance with state and local laws.

Chief Federal Magistrate Maria-Elena James ruled Monday that Harborside Health Center’s locations in Oakland and San Jose may keep their doors open because it was not up to the landlord to determine whether the business was operating legally.

“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,” Harborside Health Center Executive Director Steve DeAngelo said in an advisory. “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.”

The owners of the buildings where the dispensary’s two locations reside attempted to force the business to shut down by accusing them of illegal use, even though the leases clearly recognized that medical marijuana would be sold on the premises. A previous attempt to evict Harborside came up short in December.

The latest argument on illegal use, however, “rings hollow,” according to Judge James’s ruling (PDF). “There is nothing… indicating that Harborside’s continued operation compromises the existence, value, or title of either the Oakland or San Jose Property,” the judge wrote.

The ruling essentially means that nothing changes for Harborside, and the fight goes on. The business also faces a government forfeiture proceeding, which the judge ruled must take place as scheduled.

“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,” Harborside attorney Henry Wykowski said. “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.”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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