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Federal Court Says World’s Biggest Pot Shop Can Run While Appeal Is Pending

The same judge, Magistrate Maria-Elena James, who had ruled in February that the city of Oakland had no right to challenge the federal civil-forfeiture action against the Harborside Health Center, ruled on Wednesday that Oakland’s legal standing was “a matter of significant public interest.”

James’s latest order permits the Harborside Health Center, featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Weed Wars,” to continue to sell medical marijuana to individuals carrying recommendation from a doctor, while the city’s appeal is under review.

Cedric Chao, the attorney representing the city of Oakland in the matter said, “The court has recognized that Oakland has legitimate interests in protecting its residents’ health, in promoting public safety, and in protecting the integrity of its legislative framework for the regulation of medical cannabis.”

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While the landlords of the marijuana shop have tried to evict the shop under pressure from federal authorities, federal prosecutors have initiated a civil forfeiture action to seize the property. In response, the city of Oakland sued the federal government asking that Harborside be continued to operate for its 100,000 patients and that closing down the outlet would lead to a “health crisis.”

While California, like many other states, have legalized medical marijuana, federal authorities continue to treat cannabis as a banned drug and initiate forfeiture and criminal proceedings in states making people bewildered about what is the law.

While states continue to decriminalize and legalize medical marijuana, other programs like the Byrne Competitive Grant and the federal HIDTA funding use marijuana arrest numbers for communities to qualify police funding at state and local levels. For law enforcement authorities under the programs, more marijuana arrests mean more federal funding, at a time of federal budget cuts.

Decriminalization and legalization of marijuana is so far only yielding revenues for local or state authorities, like the city of Oakland which expects to collect $1.4 million in medical marijuana sales tax revenue this year.

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