‘Weed Wars’ Star Still Faces Eviction Threat

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A medical marijuana dispensary’s landlord insists that it can stop the tenant’s business now that it has learned selling pot is a federal crime.
     Concourse Business Center claims it has standing to request a federal court order prohibiting Harborside Health Center from selling marijuana at its San Jose location.
     The U.S. Attorney’s Office began civil forfeiture proceedings against Harborside’s two dispensary locations in San Jose and Oakland in July, claiming that the shops violated the Controlled Substances Act by selling marijuana. While medical marijuana is legal in California, it is still illegal under federal law.
     Concourse Business Center, which owns the land leased for the San Jose location, asked the Northern District of California last month to enjoin Harborside from growing, possessing and selling marijuana on its property. The U.S. government joined the request for injunctive relief against the company.
     Harborside, which was featured on the “Weed Wars” television show, countered that Concourse Business Center does not have standing as a private party to enforce the CSA. It also pointed out that Concourse “had notice through the lease itself of the acts that it now contends violated the CSA.”
     But Concourse claims it “mistakenly believed that one could lawfully operate a medical cannabis dispensary in California” when it granted and then renewed Harborside’s lease.
     Harborside further argued that granting injunctive relief would give the U.S. government the relief it seeks through a “backdoor route through the landlord.” It says it is ready to defend itself in the appropriate action.
     Standing is also an issue, since the dispensary says neither Concourse nor the government face irreparable harm if the forfeiture action is left to proceed without an injunction.
     Concourse replied Wednesday brief that courts are authorized to prevent “the use of defendant property in a criminal offense” amid a forfeiture action.
     “Nothing in the rule limits the parties who may bring such a motion,” Concourse said.
     Rather than enforcing drug laws, Concourse claims that it is “seeking to stop the use of its property in a criminal offense.”
     “In doing so, Concourse is attempting to minimize the risk that is property is eventually forfeited,” according to its brief, authored by Pail Avilla with McPharlan Sprinkles & Thomas. “Concourse is thus threatened by a concrete injury in fact – the loss of its property – which threat would be mitigated by the order being sought. These circumstances satisfy any standing requirement that may apply to the motion.”
     Concourse also disputed that its action would “shortcut” the civil forfeiture proceeding.
     “A restraining order preventing further criminal use of the property pending the outcome of the forfeiture action has no overlap with the merits of the civil forfeiture,” the landlord’s San Jose-based attorneys said. “In bringing this motion, Concourse is requesting a determination that use of the property in a criminal offense is likely (a fact which Harborside seems to concede) and an order prohibiting such use. At trial on the merits of the forfeiture action, the court will be asked to determine whether the property should be forfeited to the federal government under the forfeiture statute.”
     Though Harborside also says that the injunction would cause its employees to lose wages and benefits, as well as seriously compromise business operations, Concourse says that “neither the preservation of Harborside’s financial viability nor the continued employment of its twenty employees is a valid basis for sanctioning ongoing criminal activity at property which is the subject of a forfeiture proceeding.”
     Harborside is represented by attorney Henry Wykowski.

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