Where will it end? In March, a U.S. attorney told KQED that the federal crackdown on pot dispensaries would focus on establishments near places that children gather: schools, parks and playgrounds.
But Harborside Health Center's facilities in Oakland and San Jose don't fall into that category. So when federal authorities announced on Wednesday that they filed court papers to seize the company's assets, they gave the impression that any dispensary may be fair game.
And in a press release Melinda Haag, US Attorney for Northern California, said as much: "I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside. 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."
Harborside is one of the largest -- some say the largest dispensary in the world. And while medical marijuana is legal under state law, but it still breaks federal law. So federal agents can strike whatever pot dispensary they want, and the new move suggests none is safe.
Harborside's management remains defiant. KQED's Caitlin Esch attended a press conference there this morning.
Here's her report:
Through tears, Modesto resident Jason David told a crowd of reporters and cannabis activists Thursday that medical marijuana saved his 5-year-old son’s life. His son suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy.
“The first time I ever gave him medical cannabis is the first time he ever went seizure-free in his life,” David said. “Can you imagine your kids having seizures every single day? Being in pain 12 to 14 hours a day? Crying and screaming?”
David travels to Harborside’s Oakland location regularly to buy a custom-made liquid medicine for his son. David estimates he has a two-month supply left, and doesn't know where he would go for the medicine if Harborside closed its doors.
Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan called on federal prosecutors to focus on the real crisis in Oakland: violence.
“Please, we need those resources devoted to stopping the shooting, stopping the violence and stopping the killing. That should be the clear priority.”
Kaplan said Harborside operates legally under state-law and pays more than a $1 million a year in city taxes. Kaplan said the 100-plus jobs the dispensary provides are critical.
Haborside Executive Director Steve DeAngelo said the dispensary helps more than 100,000 patients and he won't go down without a fight.
“We will resist this action with every legal means at our disposal,” DeAngelo said. “And should we be forced from our present location, we will find alternate means of providing medicine to our patients who need it. We will never abandon our patients; we will never abandon people like Jason David -- not as long as I draw breath.”
You can see part of the press conference yourself in this video by tonythetraveler: