On Wednesday U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag from Northern California announced her departure, effective September 1. Since 2011 Ms. Haag shuttered more than 600 state-compliant medical cannabis dispensaries by threatening to seize their leased properties from landlords. Haag claimed she launched her actions because the properties were less than 1000 feet from a school, park or playground.
Haag's crusade largely ended in July of 2012 after she targeted Harborside Health Center, which she admitted was not close to a sensitive site. Harborside fought back in state and local court, and won multiple decisions that have allowed it and other state-compliant dispensaries to remain open ever since. The City of Oakland subsequently filed suit against Haag and the Department of Justice to block the federal efforts to close Harborside, and Congress passed the Farr-Rohrabacher amendment prohibiting the DOJ from spending funds to block implementation of state compliant facilites of medical cannabis laws. Neither of those efforts have had any apparent influence on Haag, who continues to aggressively pursue the case against Harborside (and Berkeley Patients Group, another East Bay dispensary).
In response to Haag's departure, Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director of Harborside Health Center, released the following statement:
"In 2012, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag initiated a civil forfeiture action to shutter the doors of Harborside Health Center and others around the state. At the time I vowed that Harborside would never abandon our patients, and we have been battling Ms. Haag in federal court ever since.
I always believed Harborside would outlast Ms. Haag, so hearing that she is stepping down gives us great relief and great satisfaction. In Ms. Haag's parting statement she said she felt her office had "accomplished most of our goals" during her tenure. The one goal she most assuredly has not accomplished is closing down Harborside Health Center. We hope her successor will have a more finely tuned understanding of compassion and justice than Ms. Haag has displayed, and allow Harborside to focus on serving our patients instead of battling a court case that should never have been started."
Granted permission to operate in 2006, Harborside Health Center is widely recognized today as the model medical cannabis dispensary in our nation and the largest in the United States. Since Harborside's opening, over 30 states have passed medical cannabis laws and four have legalized the adult use of cannabis.
About Harborside Health Center:
"Harborside Health Center, a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif.,
is looked upon as a model of how others could operate." - The New York Times
Founded in 2006 by Steve DeAngelo, Harborside Health Center is the most respected and largest medical cannabis dispensary in the United States. The San Jose and Oakland collective provides 200,000 registered patients a free onsite clinic offering chiropractic, acupuncture and 10 other holistic therapies. The center was first in our nation to support education for seniors, veterans and families with severely ill children; first in this country to offer CBD-rich medicine; and the first to treat children afflicted with Dravet syndrome. Harborside continues to set an example of diversity and compliance, and is one of the prime advocates of diversity, sustainability and economic justice in the industry.
DeAngelo also co-founded the nation's first cannabis-testing facility, Steep Hill Labs, and the country's first cannabis investment and research firm, The ArcView Group. His debut book, "The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness," will be published by North Atlantic Books and distributed by Penguin/Random House on September 22, 2015; in the book's foreword, Willie L. Brown, Jr., 41st mayor of San Francisco, calls DeAngelo, "the father of the legal cannabis industry." DeAngelo was named one of the most influential people and "gatekeeper" of the marijuana industry in 2015 by the International Business Times, and one of the most influential people in the cannabis industry in 2014 by the Cannabis Business Executive.