All eyes in the medical marijuana industry are focused on Oakland, where a federal crackdown is testing the limits of how far the government can go in its war on MMJ.
As we reported last week, Oakland medical cannabis advocates are planning a protest timed to President Barack Obama’s visit today. Organizers are hoping the protest will draw national attention to the plight of the MMJ industry in California. In the past few months, federal officials have taken numerous steps to force medical marijuana business to shut down, from threatening landlords to raiding MMJ centers and educational institutions like Oaksterdam University.
Now, the Obama administration is taking on one of the biggest fish in the medical marijuana industry: Harborside Health Center.
Despite Harborside’s apparent compliance with California’s laws and regulations, US Attorney Melinda Haag is attempting to shut down the nonprofit center by putting pressure on its landlord. But Harborside has vowed to fight back, and you can bet it will use all its ample resources to challenge the move.
The stage is now set for a high-profile showdown between the government and the MMJ industry, and you can expect a drawn-out court case to follow. Everyone involved in the business – especially in California – should watch this closely, as it will have major implications going forward. A victory for Harborside could cripple the government’s moves to crack down on the industry, eliminating its shaky justification for closing MMJ businesses in compliance with state laws. If the feds come out on top, however, we could see the medical marijuana industry evaporate in California, and the government could theoretically expand its crackdown elsewhere in the country.
Still, it’s a risky move for the government. Harborside is not like the dozens of smaller dispensaries that have been forced to close. It is more organized and more visible, and it has more resources. The justification behind the government’s action – that Harborside is simply too big – is also shaky at best.
One civil forfeiture expert seems to think Harborside has a good chance of coming out on top, saying in the East Bay Express that “the only way they’re screwed is if they don’t mount a good defense.” A lot of it will also come down to how much time and effort Harborside’s current landlord is willing to spend on the case.
Expect to hear much more about this in the weeks and months to come.
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