City of Oakland Fights Back Against Federal Medical Marijuana Asset Forfeiture Campaign

City of Oakland Fights Back Against Federal Medical Marijuana Asset Forfeiture Campaign

Oakland files lawsuit in federal court to stop seizure of property of Oakland dispensary

OAKLAND, CA — Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker and San Francisco law firm Morrison & Foerster announced  that the City of Oakland filed a lawsuit in United States District Court this week to stop the federal government from seizing an Oakland building used by one of the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries.

“This is a great day for medical marijuana patients and for the residents of Oakland. City Attorney Parker is ray of sunshine for all patients who have been watching the federal government jeopardize their access to medical marijuana,” said Steph Sherer Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical marijuana patients’ advocacy organization. “We all know that the federal government is over-stepping its reach in states with medical marijuana laws. It is wonderful to see that the City of Oakland is continuing to stand up for its legal patients.”

The city’s lawsuit is the latest development in a federal escalation against medical marijuana providers in California announced at a press conference by the state’s four US Attorneys in October of last year. The escalation has seen renewed raids at medical marijuana facilities by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as well as threats and actual civil asset forfeiture lawsuits, which allow the federal government to confiscate assets and real property against property owners who rent to medical marijuana tenants.

“We are very pleased that the City of Oakland has taken on the challenge of protecting patients’ rights from the harsh, wrong-minded actions of the federal government,” said Joe Elford, ASA’s Chief Counsel. “This legal action demonstrates that localities which support safe access to medical marijuana can make a difference in this struggle with the federal government. This complaint spells out how medical marijuana patients weren’t the only ones who were duped by Obama’s statements about medical marijuana.  The City of Oakland alleges in its lawsuit that it believed the federal government would not disturb medical marijuana dispensaries that operate in compliance with state law. Obama has broken this promise.”

The city’s press release about the lawsuit states that the City’s lawsuit does not seek damages, but asks the court to enjoin and declare unlawful the federal government’s attempt to close down Harborside Health Center, the targeted Oakland dispensary.

The lawsuit further states that, “The City of Oakland carefully created a regulatory scheme for medical marijuana dispensaries in order to maintain public health and safety, including the issuance of permits, the monitoring of licensed dispensaries, annual auditing of the dispensaries’ financial statements, and employee background checks to ensure compliance with state and city law.”

City Attorney Parker said in a prepared statement that, “This lawsuit is about protecting the rights of legitimate medical patients. I am deeply dismayed that the federal government would seek to deny these rights and deprive thousands of seriously ill Californians of access to safe, affordable and effective medicine. As Oakland’s City Attorney, I strongly oppose federal actions against Oakland businesses that are complying with state and local laws and paying their fair share of taxes. My hope is that the federal government will focus its resources on the real crisis in Oakland – violent crime and illegal guns that are snuffing out so many lives. In the midst of this crisis, it is a tragic waste for the federal government to spend its time and resources cracking down on legitimate health care providers.”

This lawsuit follows the closure of hundreds of dispensaries across the country due to threats of asset forfeiture by the Obama Justice Department over past year.

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