In a huge victory for advocates or medical cannabis in California and nationwide, a federal judge has ruled that the landlord for Harborside Health Center, America’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, abridged Harborside’s right to remain in business by filing motions to shutter the business on the grounds its federally-illegal operation endangers the market value of the property.
Federal Judge Says Nation’s Medical Cannabis Model, Harborside Health Center, Can Stay Open!
U.S. District Court Denies Landlord Injunctions in Oakland and San Jose
Oakland, Calif. – On Monday, January 7, Chief Federal Magistrate Maria-Elena James ruled in favor of Harborside Health Center (HHC), and denied motions by Harborside’s landlords asking the court to order an immediate halt of cannabis sales at their properties. Judge James also declined to grant a motion from the City of Oakland to immediately enjoin the federal government’s legal efforts to close Harborside, but scheduled a hearing later this month to hear further arguments in the City of Oakland’s lawsuit released in a highly significant, 17-page opinion.
“We are grateful that Judge James carefully considered the facts and arguments in the Harborside case, and decided to grant us our day in court,” said HHC Executive Director Steve DeAngelo. “We have always believed that a Bay Area jury will recognize the value that Harborside brings to the community, and refuse to allow the federal government to seize the properties where we are located. We look forward to proving our case in front of a jury, and continue to believe we will prevail. In the meantime, we ask the Department of Justice to immediately freeze enforcement actions against Harborside and any other cannabis providers acting in full compliance with state law. Our nation’s law enforcement officers should concentrate on real crime.”
In addition, the court found that entering injunctions against Harborside would not be an appropriate means of preventing illegal use of the property and that “there is nothing… indicating that Harborside’s continued operation compromises the existence, value, or title of either the Oakland or San Jose Property.” The court ruling stated, “Any argument about the urgency of stopping Harborside’s activities rings hollow.”
Harborside’s lead attorney, Henry Wykowski, commented, “We are gratified that Judge James listened to and analyzed the parties’ arguments so thoroughly and has now rendered an opinion that will ensure Harborside has the right to present its case to a jury. Despite the government’s efforts to shortcut the case, Harborside will now be able to fully defend itself at trial. That is all we had asked, and the court has now agreed. The stage is now set for a jury trial on the underlying issues of the litigation, which will probably take place in about one year.”
Notably, in response to initial federal forfeiture actions, HHC attorneys cited the statute of limitations, as Harborside has been in business for over six years. All other claimants in these proceedings, including the City of Oakland, have adopted this defense.