Feds Target Nation's Largest MMJ Dispensary

By McCarton Ackerman 07/12/12

Perhaps not all of Harborside Health Center's 108,000 customers need medical pot—but a shutdown could hurt those who do.

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HCC's founders, Steve DeAngelo and David
Photo via

The federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries is now aiming at its biggest target yet. The government is looking to seize properties in Oakland and San Jose owned by Harborside Health Center, which is considered the largest and most high profile MMJ dispensary operation in California—and the country. Attorney General Eric H. Holder said last month that the government was only targeting large-scale growers and dispensaries that have "come up with ways in which they are taking advantage of these state laws, and going beyond that which the states have authorized." And US Attorney for Northern California Melinda Haag believes Harborside meets these criteria—it allegedly has more than 108,000 customers. "The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state's medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need," says Haag. Pot advocates say the planned shutdown will harm those patients who truly need medical marijuana—and break promises made by the Justice Department to only go after dispensaries that violate state laws or operate near parks and schools. Harborside was also the subject of the 2011 Discovery Channel reality show, Weed Wars. "People are not going to stop using cannabis, they're just going to buy it in the illegal marketplace…on the streets," says founder Steve DeAngelo. "Why are federal prosecutors using their discretion to do something so profoundly destructive?" DeAngelo says he'll fight the Justice Department "openly and in public," and resist any efforts by landlords to evict the dispensaries.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.