The Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in California, threatening the closure of its Oakland and San Jose facilities. The DOJ has continued to crack down on state-based medical marijuana facilities — particularly in California — despite the fact that support for medical marijuana is at an all-time high.
Harborside Health Center is the largest dispensary in the world. Harborside has more than 100,000 customers, employs more than 100 staff members, and sells $20 million worth of marijuana every year — and paid the state more than $3 million in taxes last year. Harborside’s co-founder told the Los Angeles Times that the DOJ’s crackdown is “incredibly destructive” to the community of Californians who will be forced to turn to the streets to seek marijuana, which is legal for medical purposes under California state law.
Although federal law prohibits medical marijuana, it is currently legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia, with seven additional states poised to legalize medical marijuana by the end of this year. Kris Hermes, the spokesperson for the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, points out that the DOJ is undermining the marijuana laws in these states by continuing to target facilities like Harborside’s:
HERMES: This is the most obvious and significant step by the federal government in attacking completely law-abiding dispensaries. It becomes more untenable for them to say they are just going after certain facilities and not just undermining the state’s marijuana laws.
Democratic Leader Nacy Pelosi (D-CA), who has criticized the federal crackdown against state-based medical marijuana shops, indicated yesterday that House Democrats may take up federal medical marijuana legislation after the upcoming election. Pelosi said that it is “really important” to make changes to the current federal law against medical marijuana to “prevent the federal government from acting to harm the safe access to medicinal marijuana provided under state law.”
Harborside Health Center plans to fight the DOJ to stay open. In a press release on its website, it maintains that its Oakland property is a “model” medical marijuana facility in compliance with California law and promises to contest the DOJ’s actions in court.