Steve DeAngelo has been one of the most prominent cannabis industry activists for a few decades now. He helped launch the ArvView Group, the nation's top cannabis investment groups; Steep Hill Labs, one of the preeminent testing labs; and Harborside Health Center, the most profitable medical cannabis dispensary on the planet. DeAngelo, fresh off his appearance at the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, will be in my (relative) neck of the woods of Eugene, Oregon, at the next Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference (OMMBC) on March 15-16. The cannabis industry has to have those up front pushing the envelope, and DeAngelo has certainly done that. Harborside's success has attracted the attention of the IRS and US Attorney Melinda Haag as Harborside has fought both punitive tax liens and seizure attempts. The City of Oakland has actually stepped into federal court to protect Harborside from attacks from the federal government. Per The Leaf Online:
The case, litigating competing claims not only between Harborside and the Department of Justice but also a web of cross-claims involving Harborside's landlords and the city of Oakland, reads like a vestigial drug war debacle in light of recent reforms. Harborside and its landlords, for example, are facing the threat of federal civil asset forfeiture actions at a time when the federal Justice Department recently announced significant curbs in the use of forfeiture actions; US Attorney Melinda Haag and her office are expending vast sums on the prosecution right after Congress voted to end funding for federal interference in medical marijuana states; and what has often been held up as a model dispensary is being targeted when official Justice Department policy is to focus on jurisdictions without well-regulated controls to prevent diversion. Prosecutors could originally claim that they were targeting Harborside because of its size, but they can't do that anymore.
The contradictions were not lost on the judges of Tuesday's panel, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "In light of the [recent policy changes]," Judge Johnnie Rawlinson is quoted as saying, "it's a little curious that we're here in this case." Visiting federal judge Stephen Murphy III appeared to share Rawlinson's suspicion, asking prosecutors, "Why have you picked this fight?"
But despite their skepticism of the political circumstances, at least two of the three deciding judges for Harborside's appeal appear firmly against the dispensary's arguments, based on comments from the bench. "It's against federal law," stated Judge Murphy unequivocally, in reference to the distribution of medical marijuana even in compliance with state regulations. Judge Tallman interjected against one point brought up by Oakland attorney Cedric Chao, "Go to Congress with that argument."
Harborsides's plight has helped publicize the discriminatory treatment marijuana businesses face, which will eventually lead to federal reforms, especially as more and more states legalize cannabis. Despite the constant attacks from the federal government, DeAngelo has stated that, ""We still have zero intention of closing our doors."
Steve DeAngelo joins an impressive list of speakers that includes former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. If you can make it to Eugene in mid-March, I highly recommend that you attend. I will certainly be there to cover the event.