Pubdate: Wed, 04 Feb 2015
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Copyright: 2015 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


The federal government is showing signs of exhaustion in its fight 
against medical cannabis. A member of a three-judge panel at the 
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday boldly asked federal 
prosecutors, "Why have you picked this fight [with the 
Oakland-licensed dispensary Harborside Health Center]?"

"What's the end game here?" judge Stephen Murphy III asked the 
prosecution, according to reports from the San Jose Mercury News, San 
Francisco Chronicle and other sources.

"In light of the (recent policy changes) it's a little curious we're 
here in this case," Judge Johnnie Rawlinson added.

The federal prosecutor for US Attorney Melinda Haag said he did not 
know why the office is still pursuing Harborside.

Haag continues to seek dispensary properties despite direction from 
both Congress and the US Attorney General's Office to do something 
more useful with her scarce time and resources.

Attorney General Eric Holder said prosecutors should focus on black 
market traffickers, not state-legal businesses that follow the rules 
and pay their taxes. Congress de-funded the federal war on medical 
marijuana with a spending rider in December.

The judges' exasperation came as part of oral arguments Tuesday in an 
appeal of a lawsuit brought by the City of Oakland to protect 
Harborside from forfeiture.

Oakland sued Holder and the DOJ to block the forfeiture, arguing that 
shutting down the 108,000 member dispensary would create a public 
health and safety crisis. The lawsuit had been dismissed in a lower 
court, and Oakland appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

But the Ninth Circuit also showed little affinity for Oakland's 
arguments Tuesday - indicating it thought the city had little legal 
standing to block the forfeiture. Marijuana distribution remains 
federally illegal, one judge noted. Oakland needed to "Go to Congress 
with that argument," the panel said.

We don't have a timeline for the Ninth Circuit's ruling on City of 
Oakland vs Eric Holder Jr., but either side would likely appeal the 
ruling, potentially sending the case to the US Supreme Court and 
adding years to the already two-year-old case.

Harborside remains open for business and its founder states that it 
will never abandon California patients.
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