Alameda Superior Court Rules to Quash Landlord's Eviction Motion
Conflict of State vs. Federal Cannabis Laws Continues
OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 3, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The federal campaign to close Harborside Health Center and other state legal medical cannabis dispensaries was dealt a significant setback in Alameda County Superior Court on Friday, November 30th when Judge Evilio Grillo quashed an eviction proceeding initiated by the landlord of Harborside's landmark Oakland location. The Judge dismissed the action, which was undertaken in response to pressure placed on the landlord by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, on the grounds that California courts cannot evict state legal medical cannabis dispensaries simply because they are breaking federal cannabis laws.
Harborside's Senior lead attorney, Henry Wykowski of San Francisco, summarizes the central importance of Judge Grillo's decision as follows:
"For years, in medical cannabis cases, California state courts such as City of Garden Grove and People v. Tilekooh have followed a principle that cities should not be able to ask a state court to 'indirectly' enforce federal controlled substance laws in a way that disadvantages cannabis patients and caregivers. However, this is the first opinion that extends that principle to private actors, such as landlords. The decision states, 'This court sees no reason why a private actor should be able to do what a city cannot—i.e., rely on the idea that state law incorporates federal criminal law to compel a state court to enforce that federal law indirectly when it cannot do so directly.'
Harborside's lease with its landlord disclosed openly that its purpose was for Harborside to operate a medicinal cannabis dispensary on the leased premises, but the landlord, Ana Chretien, filed suit to evict Harborside after U.S. Attorney Haag initiated a civil forfeiture lawsuit to seize the property in July of this year. The City of Oakland shortly thereafter filed its own lawsuit challenging the Federal Government's right to initiate the civil forfeiture action, and last week filed a motion seeking to stay the civil forfeiture action until the City's lawsuit can be heard. Meanwhile, Chretien and the landlord of Harborside's San Jose location have filed motions for a preliminary injunction, with the aim of denying Harborside a jury trial in the civil forfeiture case. These and other issues will come to a head during a day of hearings in federal court on December 20th—a critical day for US Attorney Melinda Haag's efforts to close HHC, widely known as the nation's model dispensary.
Harborside co-founder and Executive Steve DeAngelo issued this statement reflecting on the legal victory:
"Harborside was not the first CA dispensary targeted for property seizure by US Attorneys, but it may well be the last. Judge Grillo's thoughtful opinion will provide strong protection for all medical cannabis leaseholders in California, and may put a spike in the US Attorneys month long campaign of using civil forfeiture to close state legal medical cannabis dispensaries. The decision makes it clear that organizations that comply with state law deserve the protection of that law, and makes it far more difficult for US Attorneys to force the eviction of medical cannabis dispensaries.
I am proud to be a citizen of a state where the rule of law still means something, and of a City that defends its law-abiding citizens. It is now time for the Federal government to show the same respect for democracy articulated in Judge Grillo's decision, and end their campaign to close state-legal medical cannabis providers. We are heartened by the robust support provided to Harborside by our elected officials and the California courts, and have no intention of shutting down. We are confident justice and compassion are on our side, and look forward to our day in court".
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Source:Harborside Health Center