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Oakland Vies for Another Drag in Dispensary Fight

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Barred from stopping the shutdown of a medical marijuana dispensary, the city of Oakland asked a federal judge to stay proceedings pending its appeal.

U.S. Magistrate Maria Elena James found earlier this month that Oakland lacked standing to challenge an attempt by the U.S. government to seize the Oakland location of Harborside Health Center.

The government is also trying to seize the club's San Jose location. It claims the dispensaries sell marijuana in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

While medical marijuana is legal in California, and voters have approved the recreational use of marijuana by adults in Washington and Colorado, it is still illegal under federal law.

Oakland sued the government for abandoning its alleged promises not to interfere with a state's plan to regulate medical marijuana shops.

The government said the action could not survive because only parties named in forfeiture actions have standing to challenge them.

James ruled that allowing a nonparty like Oakland to challenge forfeiture proceedings "would vitiate both the standing and time-limit restrictions in Rule G(5) and grant plaintiff greater ability to challenge a forfeiture proceeding than those who Congress identified as having the strongest interests in the defendant property."

The forfeiture proceeding also did not constitute a final agency action that gave Oakland an avenue under the Administrative Procedure Act, according to the ruling.

As Oakland appeals to the 9th Circuit, it asked James to stay the forfeiture proceedings pending this appellate review.

"A stay is necessary to prevent irreparable harm to Oakland and its 400,000 residents and many daily visitors - including avoiding the risk of mooting Oakland's appeal and forfeiting Oakland's substantive claims and avoiding the very injuries Oakland v. Holder seeks to prevent," the motion states.

Oakland cited concerns about public safety and health, as well as fears that a quick shutdown of Harborside could moot its appeal.

The city asked for an April 4 hearing on its motion.

Oakland is represented by Cedric Chao of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery is named as lead counsel for the U.S. government.

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