The Pioneer

Feds drop charges against cannabis club

Graphic by Kristiana Federe/The Pioneer

Graphic by Kristiana Federe/The Pioneer

Louis LaVenture,
Editor-in-Chief

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Don’t quit. That’s what I was always taught. The Federal Government must not have been taught that same lesson, because on May 3 they did exactly that: Quit.

The white towel was thrown, charges against Harborside Health Center will be dropped. This decision, supported by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and accompanied by a statement by the cannabis club, was announced by Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.
Since 2012, the feds have been embroiled with medical marijuana dispensary Harborside Health Center in legal proceedings aimed at shutting the Oakland-based cannabis club down. However, the feds dropped the case against the collective that has been in court since 2012.

One of the largest cannabis clubs in the world, Harborside and its more than 200,000 patients can exhale in relief now that they no longer have to fear a shutdown or raid of the Oakland waterfront or San Jose locations. According to Harborside owner and founder Steve DeAngelo, as part of the deal, prosecutors will dismiss all charges against Harborside and in return the dispensary will not pursue further legal action against the federal government.

“I vowed we would never abandon our patients and predicted Harborside would outlast the efforts to close us down,” Executive Director DeAngelo said in a statement following the decision.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said it was “coincidental” that the charges were dropped on the same day the city adopted new regulations to allow cannabis clubs and dispensaries to be more visible and not limit their presence to industrial areas.

Medical cannabis was made legal in California in 1996 by voters, however, possession and sale of the drug is illegal according to federal laws. According to California state records that record the monetary aspects of the industry, in 2015 dispensaries registered with the state piled up more than $600 million in total sales and more than $55 million in taxes.

According to Harborside, their two health centers in Oakland and San Jose bring in more than $25 million per year.

The drama started for Harborside in 2012 when then U.S. Attorney General Melinda Haag began a crusade against medical cannabis dispensaries and accused Harborside and numerous other collectives of breaking federal drug laws. Haag stepped down from her position last year and less than a year later the feds decided to drop all charges.

According to court records, after the initial charges were brought upon the collectives, the city of Oakland sued the federal government in 2012 and have been entangled in litigation since the charges were recently dropped.

In Feb. 2013 a magistrate dismissed the city’s case and granted Harborside the right to stay open during litigation, according to court records.

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