Fed Judges to Pot Prosecutors: Why Have You Picked This Fight?
The federal government is showing signs of exhaustion in its fight against medical marijuana, reports our bud David Downs in the East Bay Express. During the Harborside Health Center’s day in court on Tueday in front of a three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a federal judge boldly asked federal prosecutors, “Why have you picked this fight?”
“What’s the end game here?” judge Stephen Murphy III asked the prosecution, according to reports from the San Jose Mercury News and other sources.”In light of the (severalpolicy changes) it’s a little curious we’re here in this case,” Judge Johnnie Rawlinson added. And of course the federal prosecutor for US Attorney Melinda Haag said he didn’t know why the office is still pursuing the club.
The fight US Attorney Melinda Haag picked began in July 2012 when she targeted the $25-million-a-year business on grounds that the facility had grown too big. Later that year the city of Oakland sued to block Haag’s actions, arguing that the 108,000 member dispensary is an asset to the community and that closing it would cause a public health and safety crisis. However, a lower court ruling in 2013 dismissed that lawsuit and Oakland’s appeal of that ruling is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
But according the East Bay Express the Ninth Circuit had little love for Oakland’s arguments on Tuesday—indicating it thought the city had little legal standing to block the forfeiture. Marijuana distribution remains federally illegal, one judge noted. Oakland needed to “Go to Congress with that argument,” the panel said.
Unfortunately the Harborside isn’t the only marijuana operation here in the Bay Area being targeted by federal officials. The Berkeley Patients Group, in nearby Berkeley, is involved in a similar appeals process against Haag and her crew, despite having the city’s support.
Anyhow, whatever the outcome of Harborside’s case the ruling will likely be appealed to the US Supreme Court, pushing the outcome back another two years. As for now however the Harborside remains open for business and its founder, Steve DeAngelo says that it will never abandon California patients.
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