Why Is the DOJ Still Trying to Close a City-Supported Oakland Pot Dispensary?

Even a federal judge is asking why they keep fighting.


It's because some stoned guy made fun of her name, isn't it?
Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney

The Department of Justice is still trying to shut down a medical marijuana facility in Oakland, California, that is legally operating under state law and has the blessing of the city. Actually, "blessing" is a bit of an understatement. The city of Oakland is suing to block the actions of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who has continued to work against both the will of the community and even Department of Justice guidelines for dealing with states that have adopted laws legalizing marijuana consumption. She has been trying for years to shut down Harborside Health Center and is not giving up. Other than the claim that the dispensary is too big for her tastes, it's hard to figure out why. From the Huffington Post:

Haag first targeted Harborside Health Center, a $25-million-a-year business widely considered to be the nation's largest marijuana dispensary, in July 2012 on grounds that the facility had grown too big. Later that year, attorneys representing the city of Oakland sued to block Haag's actions, arguing that Harborside is an asset to the community and that closing it may create a public health crisis. The case is now being argued before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"There's no question that Harborside is well-regulated, compliant and an industry leader," Todd said, adding that attorneys speaking Haag's behalf couldn't answer repeated questions from judges as to "why they're fighting a city that clearly wants this business to operate here."

Haag's office did not immediately respond to HuffPost's request for comment.

Since Haag first tried to shut down Harborside, the federal government has made multiple gestures in favor of giving states the freedom to adopt marijuana laws. A memo issued in 2013 instructed federal prosecutors not to interfere in state-legal operations that adhered to eight guidelines, including keeping pot out of the hands of minors and criminal organizations.

The story notes that Haag is also still going after another medical marijuana group in Berkeley as well. In Reason's "Marijuana on Main Street" issue last summer, Peter Hecht analyzed how the Department of Justice had been trying to crack down on medical marijuana in California, despite the will of the voters. The Harborside case was among the examples in his piece. Read more about the Haag's baffling determination here.

And as Jacob Sullum recently noted, we're still seeing some terrible, scary cases by the Department of Justice in other states as well. Read here about the Kettle Falls Five in Washington state, where the feds are trying to convict five people for growing marijuana and forbidding the defense from informing jurors that what they've done is perfectly legal under state law.