For more than six years, the federal government watched quietly as Harborside Medical Center grew to become the nation’s largest medical marijuana dispensary despite knowing that its operations were illegal under federal law.
Those years of inaction could now become a central issue in a federal court action in which the federal government is seeking to seize properties in Oakland and San Jose from which Harborside sells marijuana to patients.
In a drastic change of policy last summer, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag began federal civil forfeiture proceedings against two landlords who lease property to Harborside arguing the government has the right to take the properties because they house illegal drug businesses.
Haag’s decision to seek the properties sparked a precedent-setting legal battle that resulted Thursday in two landlords, the city of Oakland, Harborside and the federal government arguing before a judge about whether the business should be allowed to continue to operate while the forfeiture actions move through the courts.
Unable to win state court approval to evict Harborside from its properties, landlords from the dispensary’s Oakland and San Jose locations asked a federal judge Thursday to order the business to immediately cease operations.
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