October 31, 2012

Key Hearing in Harborside Health Eviction Case Pushed Back, Possibly to December

Image of Harborside Health Center

The nation’s largest dispensary will have to wait a little longer than expected to learn its near-term fate.

A federal judge has delayed a hearing in the landmark case involving the attempted eviction of Harborside Health Center from its San Jose building. The initial hearing was set for tomorrow. But the judge overseeing the case was sick this week and pushed the date back to Nov. 8, according to Henry Wykowski, the lead attorney representing Harborside.

The new date likely won’t stick either, though. Both Wykowski and Harborside Executive Director Steve DeAngelo will be in Denver late next week to speak at the National Marijuana Business Conference and attend to other business matters, which will prevent them from attending the hearing.

Wykowski said he has come to an agreement with the other lawyers involved in the case to move the hearing to Dec. 13. They are now waiting for the judge to sign off on that date.

“Generally speaking, when all attorneys in a case agree to move the date, the hearing is usually continued to that date,” Wykowski said. “I would say there’s a 99% chance it will be moved. Basically, as Harborside’s attorney, if I’m not available it would be very prejudicial to proceed with a hearing in my absence.”

If the judge isn’t available on Dec. 13, Wykowski said all parties involved will work on finding a suitable date in December.

The case is particularly important because it will have huge ramifications for both Harborside and the medical marijuana industry in general. The dispensary has become the government’s highest-profile target in a widespread crackdown on the medical marijuana industry. The feds have threatened Harborside’s landlords with civil forfeiture if they continue to let the dispensary operate on their properties in San Jose and Oakland. The San Jose landlord is now trying to evict Harborside to comply with the government’s demand. If the judge overseeing the case allows the landlord to do that, it could give the government additional legal ammo for expanding its crackdown on dispensaries.

Harborside, however, is hoping the judge will move the case to a full trial by a jury. If Harborside wins that trial, it would represent a major blow to the government and make it much harder for the feds to close dispensaries.

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