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Federal Action Against Iconic Medical Marijuana Dispensary Draws Protest

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Federal authorities are seeking to seize and close the world's largest dispensary, stoking a backlash from advocates claiming thousands of people will lose their medical marijuana provider and from officials saying Oakland and the state will lose $3.3 million in annual tax revenues.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in San Francisco has announced that authorities filed forfeiture papers this week to seize the Oakland and San Jose locations of the Harborside Health Center

Harborside's Oakland dispensary, the subject last year of a Discovery Channel reality series, "Weed Wars," wracked up $22 million in cannabis transactions last year and paid $1.1 million in medical marijuana taxes to Oakland and $2.2 million in state sales taxes.

At a packed news conference at Oakland City Hall this morning, Harborside executive director Steve DeAngelo said the organization and its landlords will fight the forfeiture order and keep open its two dispensary locations, which have registered over 100,000 medical marijuana users as members.

"Harborside is universally recognized as having set the gold standard for legitimate, regulated distribution of medical cannabis," DeAngelo said. "There is no legitimate reason to target Harborside Health Center."

In a statement late Wednesday, Haag said she has previously concentrated on targeting medical marijuana outlets located near schools and parks. Though Harborside doesn't' fit that criteria, Haag said, "I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside."

"The larger the operation, the greater likelihood that there will be abuse of the state's medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need," Haag said.

No criminal charges have been filed in the Harborside case. The civil forfeiture action follows other federal crackdowns that have focused on some of the icons of California marijuana movement.

In April, multiple federal agencies raided the home, dispensary and famed marijuana trade school, Oaksterdam University, of Richard Lee, an Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur who spent $1.6 million to bankroll Proposition 19, the unsuccessful 2010 initiative to legalize pot for adult recreational use.

On June 11, Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided the El Camino Wellness Center, the city of Sacramento's first licensed dispensary and believed to be its largest medical marijuana provider. Federal authorities have also raided a Mendocino marijuana cultivator held up as a model for a local licensing program for medicinal growers and shuttered two of California's oldest dispensaries, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and the Berkeley Patients Group.

Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan protested today that the city will lose tax money for critical services and people using marijuana for medical conditions will be harmed if Harborside is forced to close.

"One might think there was no crime left in America if there are extra-hardcore federal law enforcement resources available to do nothing but go after these non-threatening people," she said.


News Hawk- TruthSeekr420 420 MAGAZINE
Source: sacbee.com
Author: Peter Hecht
Contact: Contact Us - The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, California
Website: Federal action against iconic medical marijuana dispensary draws protest - Capitol and California - The Sacramento Bee
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