» News

news graphic

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

City Attorney Contact: (510) 238-3148

Court stops federal seizure of medical cannabis building pending appeal by City of Oakland

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The federal government’s attempt to seize an Oakland building used by a City permitted medical cannabis dispensary is on hold pending resolution of an appeal by the City of Oakland.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James ruled on Wednesday in favor of the City’s motion to stay civil forfeiture proceedings against a building at 1840 Embarcadero, the site of a medical cannabis dispensary operating under state law and with a permit from the City of Oakland.

Read Judge James' ruling

“Oakland’s medical cannabis program provides medicine to thousands of legitimate patients and brings in millions of dollars in tax revenue,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said. “I am grateful for federal law enforcement help with major problems like human trafficking and illegal guns in Oakland. However, in the middle of Oakland’s public safety crisis, I believe it is a tragic waste for the federal government to spend its limited time and resources cracking down on health care providers operating under California law.”

Parker also thanked DLA Piper Senior Partner Cedric Chao, who is handling the City’s case pro bono. Both Chao and Parker are former Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Northern District of California.

In October 2012, Oakland sued the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California to prevent the government’s forfeiture action. The City argued that it had relied on numerous assurances by federal officials, including statements by President Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice, that dispensaries complying with state law would be allowed to operate. Based on those statements, Oakland has operated a regulatory system for medical cannabis dispensaries that includes annual auditing of dispensaries’ financial statements, employee background checks, issuance of permits and other measures to ensure compliance with state and local law.

Oakland filed an appeal after the U.S. District Court ruled in January that Oakland had no standing to sue the federal government – despite the unique and serious harm to legitimate medical patients, Oakland taxpayers and the City’s regulatory rights that would result from the federal government’s action.

Judge James’ ruling on Wednesday means that the U.S. Attorney cannot pursue its forfeiture action against the building rented by the Harborside Health Center until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the City’s appeal.

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, the "Compassionate Use Act," which was intended to ensure that seriously ill Californians would have the right to obtain and use medical cannabis. In 2003, the California Legislature passed the "Medical Marijuana Program Act," which provided guidelines for the implementation of the Compassionate Use Act, including a voluntary patient identification card program. The benefits of medical cannabis to patients suffering from chronic pain associated with debilitating illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis are well documented.