U.S. Attorney Drops Oakland's Harborside Marijuana Dispensary Case

OAKLAND, Calif. - The attorney for a California medical marijuana dispensary billed as the nation's largest says federal prosecutors are stopping a nearly four-year effort to seize the dispensary's property.

Henry Wykowski, the attorney for Harborside Health Center in Oakland, said Tuesday that prosecutors agreed last week to drop their civil forfeiture case against Harborside. Wykowski said prosecutors did not explain why. He said the paperwork still has to be filed with the court, which he expected would happen this week. Harborside also has a dispensary on North 10th Street in San Jose.

Abraham Simmons, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Northern California, said the office had no comment.

The federal government's decision to end the case against Harborside would be the second time in recent months it has backed off a California medical marijuana dispensary.

Medical marijuana supporters said the decision further legitimizes the industry.

"We are beginning to see the beginning of the end of federal prohibition," said Steve DeAngelo with Harborside.

Harborside opened in 2006 and was featured in the New York Times in an article called, "Don't Call it Pot, It's a Profession."

Four years ago, the Justice Department first tried to shut down Harborside. The City of Oakland sided with the clinic and sued, arguing that closing the dispensary would harm its patients and force sick people to seek marijuana illegally on the streets.

"The timing of the lawsuit being dropped could not be better," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. "Oakland has been leading the nation in how to regulate, issue, and manage the medical cannabis industry."

Oakland on Tuesday night is expected to adopt new regulations for the city's entire medical marijuana supply chain. The new rules will govern everything from production to distribution and transportation of the drug.

Bishop Ron Allen, who runs a drug-prevention group in the Sacramento area, is worried about Oakland's plan.

"It's ridiculous and I am hoping this never comes to the city of Sacramento," Allen said.

Allen is concerned because part of the proposal would require that a majority of so-called "green jobs" go to Oakland residents, including those with a criminal past.

"Crimes will increase," Allen said. "This is a bad idea by the city council."

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