Feds Target Harborside Health Center — California’s Largest, Most Prominent Medical Cannabis Dispensary

Many of California’s most prominent and well-respected medical cannabis dispensaries and related facilities — including Oaksterdam University, Berkeley Patients Group, and Harborside Health Center (HHC) — flourished under the George W. Bush administration. But they’ll be lucky to survive President Barack Obama’s first term.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors targeted Harborside Health Center in Oakland, as well as its sister facility in San Jose, for closure and civil asset forfeiture. In court papers filed by the US Attorney for the northern district of California, Melinda Haag, the federal government alleges that Harborside is “operating in violation of federal law” by providing cannabis to state-qualified patients.

The actions taken by the US Department of Justice stand in sharp contrast statements made by President Obama prior to his election, when he pledged to no longer use federal “Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws” regulating the physician authorized use and distribution of medical cannabis — a promise this administration has repeatedly broken. The actions also contradict more recent statements made by US Attorney Eric Holder to Congress in June when he asserted that Justice officials are solely targeting individuals who are “taking advantage of those state laws and going beyond what those states have authorized.”

Yet despite Eric Holder and the President’s claims to the contrary, the DOJ’s actions against Harborside are consistent with a growing trend by the Obama administration to target and close many of the state’s most prominent, longstanding, and well-respected medical cannabis operations — including the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (1996-2011), Berkeley Patients Group (2000-2012), and El Camino Wellness (2008-2012).

In April, approximately 100 federal agents raided Oaksterdam University, a brick-and-mortar cannabis trade school in downtown Oakland, and several other properties rented by the facility’s founder Richard Lee. (To date, no criminal charges have been filed against Lee and O.U. has since re-opened.) Internal e-mails from the Oakland Police Department, made public earlier this week, reveal that local law enforcement officials had virtually no advance notice of the federal government’s actions against Oaksterdam, which they criticized as “resource-draining; … [it] exposed our staff to more conflict (harm) as well as complaints than necessary.”

Commenting on this week’s action, US Attorney Melinda Haag pronounced:

“This office has used its limited resources to address those marijuana dispensaries that operate close to schools, parks and playgrounds. As I have said in the past, this is a non-exclusive list of factors relevant to whether we should commence civil forfeiture actions against marijuana properties, and circumstances may require us to address other situations.

I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside. The larger the operation, the greater the 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.

The filing of the civil forfeiture complaints against the two Harborside properties is part of our measured effort to address the proliferation of illegal marijuana businesses in the Northern District of California.”

However, in contrast to Haag’s public statement, the federal complaint filed Sunday cites no alleged violations of state law, instead claiming that HHC’s actions violate the federal US Controlled Substances Act.

Speaking at a press conference today (Watch a recording of it here.)– Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director of Harborside Health Center — rebuffed Haag’s claims, stating that HHC is neither close to a school, nor out of compliance with state law. “Harborside has nothing to hide or be ashamed of,” DeAngelo said in a prepared statement. “We will contest the DOJ action openly and in public, and through all legal means at our disposal. We look forward to our day in court, and are confident that justice is on our side.”

Harborside Health Center is licensed by the city of Oakland. It employs over 100 people and is Oakland’s second largest retail tax payer. Last year, HHC paid combined taxes in excess of $3 million, over a million dollars of which went directly to the City of Oakland.

According to a post on the facility’s website, Harborside Health Center intends to remain open despite federal threats. It states: “Harborside is not in imminent danger of closing. We intend to keep the commitment we made six years ago to provide our patients with safe access to the medicine their doctors have recommended, for as long as we possibly can.”

The US Attorney’s actions come the same week that former US House Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi called on Congress to reform federal marijuana laws to acknowledge the plant’s therapeutic utility. Representative Pelosi had previously criticized the Obama administration’s actions this past May, stating, “I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana.”

Harborside Health Center estimates that it serves over 100,000 members. The facility had previously been engaged in litigation with the Internal Revenue Service, which determined that the dispensary could not deduct standard business expenses such as payroll and rent, because it is involved in what the agency terms “the trafficking of controlled substances.”

86 thoughts

  1. It amazes me how much time/money we put into protecting other countries from their own governments or lack thereof verses how much effort we put into attacking and imprisoning our own citizens. I thought one day I could be proud to be an American… not in the slightest. Thanks Obama. I don’t think he want’s to be re-elected.
    -Fear not Mr. President Millions of voters will be happy to help make it not happen.

  2. Note to the Feds,quit wasting our tax dollars on raids on legal state run dispensarys.Go after meth labs and such.

  3. why is it they want to shut down dispensaries when there’s bars adult stores and adult entertainment places that are all operating within school distances how come they don’t close them down? I think haag needs to resign…

  4. We all know why they are targeting the dispensary’s, They are EASY targets operating legally under State law and they don`t have to worry about getting Shot during the raids like they do in hardcore Dope houses.
    Go for the easy targets and let the hardcore dope dealers shoot it out so they have a reason to lobby the Government for MORE Money!

  5. From exploiting zoning laws to exploiting the internal revenue service, there is a reason behind all of this insanity.

    Do you know that today is the first day I even heard about Deep Green? I am going on year two of medical recommendation. No I wasn’t in Oakland, but seems like co-op’s ought to communicate such events within the state. 420 is 420, Deep Green needs it’s own day, with it’s own message in my opinion.

    The feeling I get from Pelosi is the whole mess end’s up with some commercial product everything else filtered out and nothing else. The reality is there are lots of other chemicals in there which nobody seems to know about, for all anyone knows they act together in positive ways. I’m thinking they do. That just high CBD to kill off pain isn’t the end of the usefulness of Sativa, Indica or hybrid. If that is the end goal another big pharma product, nobody wins.

    The last thing I want to bring up is the Harborside Health Center videos floating around out there. Someone needs to organize them. part 1 part 2, part 3, part 4 …

  6. Ridiculous . The U.S. government is destroying California’s economy with incresing crime because this will throw the dealers underground and now more unemployed .California is setting its own laws and must become an independent Nation if its going to survive .

  7. The feds are out of control. How did we allow this to happen? So far as my understanding of the constitution goes, they work for us.

    It looks like we need to give our bongs enough of a respite to hammer our representatives with information about how we feel and what we’re going to do about it. I do this at least once a week by writing a paragragh or two on my thoughts and sending it to my federal representatives and the Democratic Party. I also fill out and send all the “Take Action” notices from Norml, ASA and other pro-cannabis lobbying groups. Please consider developing a pattern of consistent action that works for you. The feds have declared war on us. The way to win it is to fight it, in my opinion. One of the things I include in my missives is a reminder that I have switched my voter registration from Democrat to Independent. I will not vote for another Democrat until they end this assault on our liberties.

  8. Revolution is the only solutiton. How much longer do you all want to let these sociopaths have control over our lives and the lives of our children?? The government must be stopped and brought to its knees. Then burried at least 600 feet under. for safty purposes. God knows we don’t want to ever have such a fascist order like this one again.

  9. The powers that be do not consider there to be a valid use of cannabis. All use is abuse in their evil eyes.I am really feeling like I will be voting for the independent this go around. Romney is corporate America’s manchurian candidate and Obama is a lying hypocritical p.o.s.

  10. Never thought I’d hear anything positive about a big spending politician like Nancy Pelosi. Kudos to her for standing up to the Obama admin. I remember seeing Harborside in a documentary about marijuana and i wish them good luck in there fight for justice. It is a model that legalization could follow.

  11. This is the career enhancing effort of the person in charge, Melinda Haag, to impose the force and resources of the DOJ on the object of her taught prejudice, marijuana users, and she mentally was ready to harden her heart and conscience as to the individual patients she would harm by her actions, but would justify her malicious exercise of Federal Power to “purse snatch” a city approved medicinal enterprise because of the “likelihood” of her imagination manifesting.
    Looking with the other eye, the DOJ action closing down these easy pickings for forfeiture is enhancing the Mexican drug cartels profits, which maybe is the real reason for the raids. The Feds might have a side deal with the cartels; remember Ollie North?

  12. Obama is going to kill marijuana cause he changed his mind. Better yet who changed his mind? Big Pharma, Big oil, tobacco, alcohol, etc… Romney, please! come on man! How about Gary Johnson for president? He believes that all people were created equal and that weed should be legalized. Sounds like Bob Marley to me? He thinks the government is out of control. I and I agree. Supposedly by 2025, the U.S. will have 50,000 or more spy drones spying on everyone without a search warrant. If you want to keep your rights then we need to take back the power from the corporations. The corporations will never let a libertarian win no matter if 100% of the voters vote for him or her. Why? Is cause the democrats and republicans are both playing ball with the corporations. Don’t legalize weed it will kill oil, plastics(oil), toxic pesticides(oil), and a host of other toxic killers like gasoline. It is funny that tobacco, which causes cancer when smoking, also cause cancer when using smokeless, as in dipping. I understand if you put weed in your body it kills cancer. it does not matter if you smoke it. Smoking weed does not cause cancer!
    This country is going to look like an even bigger jackass in the near future. The world is tired of our policies and so are we. Let the firing of the bad politicians commence! There is going to be a war between the people and the corporations. Which side will the government be on?

  13. Nope. This a set up for Barry to sweep in, whip up some new orders and save the day. 4 more years here he comes.

  14. This is so wrong it’s unbelievable. States need to stand up with their community the voters ,the people of California and put end to federal intervention. We the people, vote it’s Law in our state and you are not Welcome.

  15. Pelosi made it front page mainstream news for him. Gotta set the table for every goohead sheeple waiting in line at McDowells.

  16. G I guess the government won’t let go of the 12 pattens they have on cannibas any time soon!

  17. This country had to have a civil war to end slavery. The bad effects of cannabis prohibition are more invisible but still there. Maybe we should have a million man march or civil war or anything to take back control and get what we want. It says in the constitution of the US that if any law is found to be unjust it is the CITIZENS right to band together and change it for the better. We want to enjoy our lives, Goddammit! 1950s lifestyle IS’NT GOOD. Alcohol and Tobacco SUCK! I’d rather break the law and feel good then be depressed, morbid “good citizen.”

  18. Since CA law does not infringe on the commerce clause which regulates and prohibits cannabis, seems state law in this case trumps federal law. But what do i know. Other than President Obama is looking more like the late dictator in Libya.

    After this action, I also now know not only will I not be voting for Romney, I will not vote Obama. Huge disappointment and as far as I’m concerned nothing he promised pre-election was sincere or genuine.

    The Cannabis Spring is upon us… if this abominable action by the feds doesn’t get the whole cannabis/drug war issue to the very top levels of of my society, nothing will.

  19. This is ridiculous! The Feds have no authority to even do these raids.

    Did we run out of criminals? I don’t think so… It simply seems like we have too many police or something… Why are they making up excuses to arrest people? Non-compliance my ass, try telling the truth now and then, it is liberating.

    Go Police State! Go! Go away!!!

  20. This kind of crap makes me so mad. What about the sick people who rely on their medicine? I bet Colorado is next. If the feds want to stop legalization movements in the future they had better stop telling our children they live in a free country. Because like us they will believe it and believe that the will of the people really matters when clearly it doesn’t.

  21. Since all of this horse shit first began back in October I’ve progressed from shocked, to outraged, to a state of disbelief. How do these people wake up and look at themselves in the mirror in the morning? Especially Melinda Haag, she looks like the sad spawn of a walking stick and a snowman.

  22. When that fake,Obama, comes to our communities begging for our votes,we ought to smoke him away. Or, greet him with placards criticizing his hypocrisy and lies and accusing him of hurting and/or hastening the deaths of sick people who are deprived of their medical cannabis because of Obama’s goddamned raids on lawful dispensaries.Because that’s what he’s doing HURTING THE SICK! Read that,Barry!!! You liar! You’re no better than Assad!

  23. If we win in Colorado what will happen? They wont let it be sold. They will declare war on us. Well they are ready have declare war on us. No this country has gone to crap. The so call greatest generation is really a joke. And all these cop’s that support and take part in these raids have to be look at as the devil they are. The ( D-E-A ) Need our children to get mess up on hard drugs so they can keep there job’s. The Government knows that if cannabis become legal then they have a lot of ? they will have to answer to.

  24. Why dont’ people whom have a Medical Card Join together and Take the Us Government to Federal Court. I mean the other people whom are getting cannabis from the Us Government at the University of Mississippi beat the Us Government .. How can the Us Government do this to People when they lost in Federal Court?

  25. I’m so disgusted by the Federal Govts actions regarding MMJ I wish I could literally spit in all their faces! What the hell part of “America – Land of the Free” do they not understand. Do any of them give a damn about the thousands of good American who have fought and died to defend our country to help keep this the Land of the Free? How many marijuana users out there in America have relatives (a grandfather perhaps) who fought and died only to have their grandson put into prison for having a bit of marijuana or selling a small amount to a friend?

    The actions of the Federal Govt under the Obama administration is… well, a few choice curse words come to mind!

  26. All of us must vote for legalization in our respective states. All of us also get jury summons from time to time. We need to use jury nullification in all marijuana cases. We can end criminal prosecution with this tactic.

  27. When Obama ran in 2008 I was hopeful that he would legalize or at least decriminalize.

    However the more stuff like this that happens I feel that Obama will never be on our side, the side of the majority of Americans polled on the subject. One can only assume that he’s afraid of history painting him in a negative light in attributing his ‘green’ past to the reason for his potential actions and not because it was simply the right thing to do. It’s hard for me not to believe that Obama has grabbed the only brass ring he cares about; being the first African-American President and thus doesn’t want to generate any waves that would tarnish that prize.

    As much as it pains me to say it, Romney may not be “from our side” but, at least he’s a business man that may recognize the financial progress that could be made by taxation and regulation in addition to the savings that would follow by trimming the fat from our judicial systems.

  28. Obama in 2008 went from “HOPE” to “NOPE”. This will be the first time
    as an adult that I chose NOT to vote for any president. Obama will be in Oakland on Monday. I believe at the paramount or fox theatre. I think the FOX. Show up with signs and protest. Say No to lies lies lies. Tell him to keep his word. Tell home he’s busting more dispensaries than Bish did in TWO terms. FU Obama!!!

  29. Thanks Obama! Now I have to go 10 miles in my wheelchair to get my meds so I can eat and not throw up from liver cancer. Thanks for shutting down the place my MD told me to go get my medication at. Thanks for making me travel 4x the distance. And thanks for now threatening the only place I can get certain meds from that make feel ok and have hope again. Harborside. KEEP YOUR FILTHY LYING HANDS OFF THEM! They’re operating within regulation- not near a school and down by the water away from most businesses. Without HHC I can’t eat or sleep. Thanks! Let’s all use unsafe dirty street flower. That will help. Put more people in jail after u took their medicine away. It’s 2012 does marijuana really need to be classified the same a heroin? Wake up!!!

  30. The U.S. Federal Government is destroying California …….

    Oakland — A day after federal prosecutors moved to shutter the country’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, city leaders and other officials came to the defense of Harborside Health Center, warning of dire economic and social consequences if Oakland’s carefully regulated industry is quashed.
    “We cannot afford the money, we cannot afford the waste of law enforcement resources, and we cannot afford the loss of jobs that this would entail,” City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said Thursday at a news conference as dozens of Harborside Health Center patients stood by.

  31. America has really let me down. I can’t believe what my taxes go to support in this country. Damn we have one really fucked up situation on our hands. Ridiculous.

  32. Cannabis . medicinal (need) . “Ma ri juana” 🙂
    is illegal in Federal US Law . Uh der cannabis
    can be legal if it is to national accord Natl2
    standard as a grade A or grade B product . yep
    Cannabis can be legal if it is not dangerous#$
    with toxin en weis {ways} the reguard will be*
    taxes for Cannabis sativa and indica with then
    ganja high end product known simply as i .,.@*
    may be legal when they are compliant with then
    Elizabethean 100 year counsel on dangerous pot
    known as “ma ri jua na” or ‘loco weed*’ Got it
    [M Word] Is Illegal in Federal US Founding @!!
    Associate England Tea Party Concedense Law . .
    OTay . Manna pot may be legal . It is not the#
    illegal name for prohibition dollar [m word] .
    Thanks and Hooray . Berkeley . local.net 🙂 🙂
    Your charter greensmoke.org small serv2 18322+
    known as Berkeley California Cannabis Charter@
    Center 18332 refer to 18322.7n8 may be legal!!
    Opium dealing is not legal unless you pay then
    grade A or grade~b similar comment in law then
    taxes to begin Green Cross TriCam Leaf smoked*
    _\|/_ Taxes with Obama Admin seeing to his own
    fed2 ([ Federal 2 ]) Law of President with aco
    known as Accord with En ., MatronEnglndRefurb.
    Thanks . Hope this clears up your “disability”
    and please allow to local.net blog N_ORML 0oe.

    Former Comm. Dir~y local office now NORML*free
    State [2] proper accord with Midwest D OP E Y*

    Bryan . Allow with writing standard local.net~
    .and I will see you get *off* easy . PAX~n*pot

  33. The marijuana reform movement has to shove the negative economic impact, to the above economy, that this medical marijuana crackdown has created. We need to scream that a respected industry (and leading participants like Harborside) has been destroyed under the Obama administration. The dispensaries that have been forced out equals hundreds, if not thousands of jobs. Above ground and Legal marijuana is good business; and businesses like Harborside tried to set an example for government compliance. Shutting this business down is total blasphemy to the model of a tightly organized system with government oversight. This is a smash and grab! This crackdown is for desperately needed funds for a collapsing economy to feed these government agencies. There is no justice here! Just a bunch of thugs with a badge handled by psychopath leaders who will destroy a micro economy just because they hate marijuana and marijuana patients.

  34. Steve is a douche Bag Harborside should be called HomosexualWeedShop. What a flaming flamboyant sorry sack of doodoo. All those papers proving you sell marijuana Stupid!!! SilkRoad Baby No Prescription needed. Man Eff the system.

  35. What a sad day. And this whole Romney-Bain attack too. I wonder if we should really vote for Mittens instead

  36. This is so sad, I believed Obama during the last election when he promised to protect MMJ patients. I felt hopeful. Now i feel let down and lied to, it’s just so sad.

  37. WOW. This makes me sick.

    These dispensaries need to spend money to prevent raids ahead of time. Purchase stronger doors with powerful locking systems.

    Basically, I wonder how powerful these facilities can make their walls and doors. If they could make them powerful enough, the DEA would need to resort to embarrassing tactics in order to infiltrate and steal the product.

  38. If the federal agencies are not concerned with state law(s) or local law enforcement’s priorities; then maybe state law enforcement shouldn’t be concerned with aiding the federal agencies.

    The public of California has voted medical marijuana and it’s operation legal, and protected by state law.

    The duty of local municipalities is to protect and serve its citizens; and the laws that they pass, so they should do just that; and leave the federal agencies to their own devices and go about things business as usual and not help them at all, no crowd control, no traffic control…nothing.

    Citizens need to demand that law enforcement work for them; and enforce the laws passed by it’s citizens. Not bend over to the federal government agencies and help them.

    By aiding the federal government; local police are going against the will of it’s own citizens and state law.

    It can’t keep continuing this way, a side has to be chosen.

    Agencies: Uphold state law and the will of it’s citizens; or aid and abet the federal governments efforts to crush medical marijuana and continue prohibitionist propaganda, that will never work.

    Sadly, the federal government is in the pocket of the lobbyist’s with the most cash. The lies, excuses and fake propaganda are clung to, when questioned; because they have to give a reason. A reason as to; why they continue an archaic policy despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.

    They aren’t going to be honest and say when questioned: “Why are we doing all of this against the will of citizens? Because this special interest group has paid us to keep this policy, it’s as simple as that.”

    That is why everyone questioned, dodges with antiquated rhetoric; instead of a yes or no answer.

    The Dodgers belong on a baseball field; not in political office, everyone please remember that when it’s time to vote.

  39. the govt absolutely disgust me. i won’t be surprised if another civil war happens. in fact i hope it does, or some kind of protest that makes the govt stop and take a look at how fucked up they’re making our country. marijuana isn’t the issue. as far as i’m concerned: the amount of tax dollars it can produce will help our country, the crime rate will go down, people will have safe access and know where they’re medicine came from. because regardless of how many dispensaries you raid and close, no matter how many laws you make to make it illegal and make restrictions, marijuana’s not going anywhere. you will never win that battle of getting rid of it. never. so keep wasting tax payers money, and wasting police resources, you’re only hurting our govt, citizens, and our country.

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