Pubdate: Tue, 08 Jan 2013
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Matthai Kuruvila
Page: C2


A federal magistrate issued an order Monday declaring that Oakland 
and San Jose landlords could not stop a medical marijuana dispensary 
with locations in each city from selling cannabis.

Both landlords face federal seizure of their properties for renting 
to Harborside Health Center, the nation's largest marijuana 
dispensary with 108,000 registered and certified patients. To mollify 
federal authorities, each landlord has gone to federal court to stop 
the dispensary from "any unlawful activity," which, under federal 
law, includes selling cannabis.

Magistrate Maria-Elena James said neither landlord had the right to 
pursue such an action under federal law.

In addition, she questioned landlord arguments that their property 
values would be harmed by the sale of medical marijuana. Harborside 
started renting the Oakland property on Embarcadero Way in 2006 and 
the San Jose property on Ringwood Avenue in 2009.

"Any damage or threat of harm to the (properties) resulting from 
Harborside's operations would have occurred when Harborside began its 
operations at the Oakland and San Jose locations," she wrote. "There 
is nothing in the record indicating that Harborside's continued 
operation compromises the existence, value or title of either the 
Oakland or San Jose property."

The Oakland property is owned by Ana Chretien, a politically 
connected security company owner. Her attorney, Geoff Spellberg, did 
not return messages late Monday. Henry Wykowski, an attorney for 
Harborside, also declined to comment. The San Jose property is owned 
by Concourse Business Center.

The landlords had also tried to go to county court to evict 
Harborside - with differing results. A Santa Clara County Superior 
Court judge allowed eviction proceedings to continue. An Alameda 
County Superior Court judge said a landlord could not use federal law 
to evict someone in county court.

The city of Oakland has joined the case, arguing that the federal 
government has missed the statute of limitations. In addition, the 
city argues that closing the dispensary, which a forfeiture action 
would do, would create a public safety problem by encouraging a black 
market for marijuana.

Cedric Chao, an attorney who is handling the city's case pro bono, 
said the magistrate's decision is a victory for Harborside and the city.

Chao has criticized the federal government for using landlords to try 
to shut down Harborside, which federal authorities have not gone 
after directly. But now, the Oakland landlord's efforts have failed 
in both county and federal court.

"The landlord is out of bullets," Chao said. "What else can they do?"

The case will proceed on two fronts, Chao said: The city's case 
against the federal government and the federal government's 
forfeiture proceedings against the landlords.

"The federal government has never had someone stand up to them like 
this," Chao said of Oakland.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom