Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jul 2012
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Matthai Kuruvila


Seizure Planned of Property Housing Harborside Center

Federal authorities said Wednesday that they plan to seize the Oakland
property used by Harborside Health Center, which is believed to be the
nation's largest medical marijuana dispensary.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California
posted a notice on Harborside's door this week, saying it intends to
seize the property under federal laws prohibiting the distribution of

Harborside generated $21 million in sales in 2009 alone and claims
over 100,000 patients.

Its size made it a target, said Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for
the Northern District of California. She called the famed dispensary
"a superstore."

"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," she
said in a statement.

The property, which federal authorities said was valued at around $2
million, is owned by Ana Chretien, owner of ABC Security, one of the
East Bay's most politically powerful security companies. Her company
has had contracts with the city of Oakland, Alameda County and the
Port of Oakland, including Oakland International Airport.

Chretien could not be reached for comment.

Harborside's attorneys said the center has done nothing wrong. They
said they found the forfeiture notice taped to their doors Tuesday.

"Nobody gets into Harborside without a recommendation from their
doctor," said attorney Henry Wykowski.

Wykowski and several others noted that U.S. Attorney General Eric
Holder has said federal officials would not go after dispensaries that
were complying with state law.

"Size is not the determining factor," said Wykowski. "The attorney
general said they weren't going to go after dispensaries that were in
compliance with state law. We're in compliance. We pay our taxes. The
state has never complained."

James Anthony, another Harborside attorney, said the motive was

"They're doing it because they want to shut Harborside down," he said.
"It's not clear where else in Oakand that Harborside could go."

The forfeiture notice at Harborside is the latest blow to the medical
marijuana industry in Oakland, the political center of cannabis
politics in the state. Oakland has only four permitted dispensaries,
part of a concerted effort to keep a relatively tight rein on an
industry to which other cities give a wide berth.

But Harborside is the second Oakland dispensary to be targeted by
federal authorities this year. It comes three months after federal
authorities raided and shut down a dispensary, school and other
properties connected to Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam
University, a training ground for people who want to work in the
marijuana industry. Lee was the state's most active proponent of
marijuana legalization but has been out of business ever since.

Oakland authorized four more dispensaries earlier this year. But three
of the dispensaries have yet to open, in part because of landlord
fears about federal property seizures. Hundreds of dispensaries have
been shut down around the state in a growing federal crackdown.
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