Oakland Sues Feds to Save Pot Dispensary

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Typically a lawsuit involving a pot dispensary is initiated by the federal government. But this time around Oakland is suing to stop federal officials from shutting down a dispensary.

Harborside Health Center is the largest dispensary in the city and it brings in a lot of tax money along with the three other dispensaries licensed in Oakland.

Melissa Haag, the U.S. Attorney assigned to the case, says Harborside violates California law because of the amount of business it does. But Oakland claims shutting down the dispensary will create health and safety concerns within the community. The city is also upset that the federal government is targeting the dispensary in the first place.

Obama's administration promised that dispensaries that comply with state law will not be targeted by federal agencies. Based on that promise, Oakland created a program to regulate and license dispensaries as a way to meet budget shortfalls.

Now they claim the government is going back on its word.

The size of the dispensary is part of why it's such a target. While it appears to comply with state law, Haag noted that the larger the dispensary, the more likely that it will abuse state medical marijuana laws.

But when the government made the initial move to evict Harborside, federal officials cited violations of federal drug law, not state law, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Oakland permits and licenses dispensaries within the city limits. Without the dispensaries, city officials claim it would be harder for patients to get prescribed medicine.

It could also create a black market which would endanger public safety and lead to more crime. The problem is that selling pot at all is still technically illegal.

Marijuana is a controlled substance under federal law but many states, including California, have legalized its sale for medical purposes. That doesn't mean sellers and users are immune from federal prosecution but in the last few years there has been an uneasy truce on the issue of medical marijuana.

That doesn't give any protection to people who use marijuana without a medical prescription or who get a prescription through shady means. To find out if you could qualify for a prescription in your state ask the FindLaw Answers Forum.

Don't leave it to chance or you could end up on the wrong side of the law.

This is the first time a municipality has defended a dispensary in this way, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. How it will play out is anyone's guess.

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