Oakland CA Sues Feds Over Marijuana

marijuanaOaklandIn the ongoing battle of “which law is in play,” the City of Oakland, California is trying to block federal enforcement of marijuana laws that led to the closure of a large dispensary in the city. The dispensary, legal under state and local laws, is an illegal operation under federal drug laws, as are the laws in other states that allow for medical marijuana.

The Harborside Health Center was raided and closed in July. City attorneys are saying that the seizure of the property goes against federal policy as stated by President Obama. The President said that no enforcement actions would be taken if all state laws were being followed. And then there’s the money …

The dispensary is a large operation with millions of dollars of revenue generated every year. Part of that money flows to the city of Oakland and the state as taxes. Sales taxes alone take 8.75%, a hit of almost one and a half million dollars off of tax revenues, based on estimated sales of $21 million.

This level of sales and tax revenue comes because Harborside was the largest such operation in the nation, with more than 100,000 registered patients. This may also be why the dispensary was targeted by the feds who may be interested in demonstrating they will take action when operations grow large enough.

If the feds did legalize marijuana for medical use, they too would have a bite at the pie – by way of licensing fees and taxation. For now though, the message seems to be: Follow state laws and don’t be too successful, and we’ll leave you alone. At least, that seems to be the current message being sent.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the case may hinge on a technicality. There is a five-year statute of limitations on forfeitures, and the clock starts ticking when law enforcement first learns of the crime. The dispensary has been in operation since 2006, meaning the statute of limitations has already run. This point may keep the feds from completing the seizure.

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