East Bay News

Supporters of Oakland pot club protest Justice Dept.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Medical marijuana advocates are promising to fight a federal crackdown on Oakland's largest pot provider. The complaint, filed this week by the U.S. Attorney for Northern California, targets the owner of the building that houses the Harborside Health Centers in Oakland and in San Jose.

The founder of Harborside Health Center is defiant.

"Harborside has nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of; we have no intention of closing our doors," Steve DeAngelo said.

DeAngelo founded the Harborside dispensaries in Oakland and San Jose that claim more than 100,000 customers and annual sales of $30 million, $3 million going to city and state sales taxes.

"But the reason we have the largest number of patients is because we have provided the highest level of care and met a need that was desperately needed," DeAngelo said.

Harborside's size is an issue, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which said in a statement, "The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state's medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need."

On more than one occasion, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has told Congress that medical marijuana dispensaries that operate within state laws would not be a priority targets.

"And again, given our limited resources that would not be an enforcement priority for the Justice Department," Holder said.

"Harborside is was and always will be in compliance with such laws," Harborside attorney Henry Wykowski said.

Wykowski says the federal enforcement doesn't make sense, but it does fit a pattern. DeAngelo has been a high profile outspoken marijuana activist. Three months ago Oakland's Oaksterdam University, a school for the medical marijuana business was raided by federal agents. Oaksterdam's founder another outspoken leader in the battle for legalization.

Thursday, Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan called on the feds to change their priorities.

"Please, we need those resources devoted to stopping the shootings stopping the violence and stopping the killing," Kaplan said.

The owner of the building is Ana Chretien. Her legal advisor says she is disappointed in the federal action and that she plans to fight it.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
oakland, pot club, marijuana, medical marijuana, east bay news, mark matthews
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