Famed pot dispensary Harborside has beat back the Feds–sort of.
After years of chronic attacks from Federal Prosecutors, the dispensary has finally received its first vindication after a series of setbacks. Oakland officials announced at a press conference on the steps of City Hall on May 3 that federal prosecutors were dropping their 3-year long effort to seize the property of Harborside Health Center, something that is sure to strengthen the resolve of Oakland residents come this November Election.
The end of this highly publicized legal battle is not coincidental. Public sentiments concerning the public health risks and criminality of cannabis are changing to that of more educated acceptance. This shift, coupled with two years of federal budget amendments put forth by President Obama barring the Department of Justice from spending undue money on efforts that would interfere with state medical marijuana laws, has effectively decriminalized cannabis on the federal level (or at the very least neutralized some of its harsher laws when it comes to the green herb).
It’s not all spliffs and dabs for Harborside just yet, as this is just the first battle won in a war that is sure to continue this June. It’s then the dispensary will have to face its toughest challenge: a punitive federal tax law that levies 85 percent on cannabis sales (which, again, are still illegal according to federal law).
“The two largest issues facing the cannabis industry now are banking and their unfair taxation by the Internal Revenue Service under Section 280-E,” explained Harborside attorney Henry Wykowski. “It is highly prejudicial. It was never meant to apply to state-authorized cannabis dispensaries. It was meant to target street drug dealers.”
The attorney said the dispensary wouldn’t back down. “Once again, Harborside is going to stand in the forefront of the industry and take that case on,” he said.
Wykowski said the federal government initially appealed the ruling by U.S. Dist. Judge Charles Breyer but recently withdrew it. If it had been upheld by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, it would have affected Harborside and dispensaries in all Western states, thereby harshing many buzzes.
Wykowski remains optimistic. Federal prosecutors “saw the handwriting on the wall,” he said defiantly.
“They tried to have us evicted. We won that,” he said. “They tried to get an injunction to stop us from selling. We won on that.”
Last year Oakland attempted to intervene on the dispensaries behalf but a federal judge decided in August that the city lacked the legal right to have a say in the case. The U.S. Supreme Court let that decision stand in March.
The dispensaries federal forfeiture case dismissal is still pending final approval, with Harborside having signed a stipulation for dismissal. According to Wykowski, the case should be officially over within a week to 10 days. He said the stipulation required that Harborside bear its own legal costs and promise not to sue the federal government.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney in San Francisco declined to comment, citing “pending litigation.”
Hi, my name is Petey Wheatstraw. I’m an avid marijuana smoker, writer, devoted father and non-profit minion– not necessarily in that order. A Chicago native I’ve lived in the Bay Area since 1996.