U.S. Attorney out of Line about Marijuana

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s war on medical marijuana is a violation of current federal Department of Justice policy, an embarrassment to the President of the United States and is, literally, threatening the health and safety of our community. She should be removed from her post, immediately.

Haag’s latest outrage is her attempt to shutdown Harborside Health Center in San Jose, as well as its sister collective in Oakland. Harborside is one of the good dispensaries. They comply with current state law, are located in an industrial area of San Jose, use proper protocols and pay their city taxes. Harborside is the model for a good citizen.

Haag’s actions are in direct violation of the Obama administration policy. Attorney General Eric Holder stated in a memo: “We limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law.”

James Anthony, a lawyer and medical marijuana expert agreed.

“She is in direct contradiction of Administration Policy,” said Anthony, who handles legal matters for the Citizen’s Coalition for Patient Care (CCPC). “She is waging a war on cannabis patients.”

Haag’s rogue actions call into question who is in charge at the Department of Justice. The president has consistently promised not to use federal resources to contravene current state laws.

Haag’s misguided focus on closing medical marijuana dispensaries is also a threat to public health and safety. In going after Harborside, and those who provide patients with medicine and comply with state law, she is ignoring the real bad guys. In San Jose, we know where the bad operators of medical cannabis are located. These operators are a blight to the neighborhood, a nuisance to their neighbors and they fail to pay their taxes, as mandated by Measure U.

Former State Senator John Vasconcellos, who led in the fight for medical marijuana in California, is disturbed and dismayed by Haag’s assault on patients and the effect of her stance on the community.

“Ms. Haag is violating the will of the people of California, the law of our sovereign state, is endangering the good health of the people of California and ignoring the state of the science which has established marijuana has therapeutic benefits,” Vasoconcellos said.  “She is closing down safe, legitimate access to good medicine thereby diverting deserving patients into the underground black market.

“This U.S. Attorney is doubling the price of patient’s medicine, doubling the profits of drug gangs and enabling the violence associated with illegal drugs,” he added.

Vasconcellos also expressed concern that Haag’s actions would be detrimental politically to the president in the national election. President Obama benefitted in 2008 from a large turnout of younger, educated voters. The concern is that they either won’t show-up or cast a protest vote for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who supports legalizing marijuana.

“Ms. Haag is, by her wanton behavior and silly posturing, alienating many California voters and is an embarrassment and a threat to the reelection of the president.” Vasconcellos said.

The city of San Jose currently has a list of bad operators, and these are the folks Haag should be targeting—not operators like Haborside. It would take her less than an hour to get the information from the city and less than a day to shut down these illicit operations. But if Haag insists on targeting dispensaries like Harborside, while allowing the scofflaws to operate, she exacerbates the problem she claims to be solving.

If Haag is after headlines, one operator—Dave Hodges of the All-American Cannabis Club (A2C2)—welcomes being shut down. In September of 2011, he told Metro that his original plan was to be raided in two months after opening. Hodges refuses to pay taxes, openly flaunts the law, and enjoys the notoriety. But his brazen civil disobedience is disruptive within the legitimate medical marijuana community and he gives the industry a bad name.

Hodges, as a ubiquitous if less than credible advocate for the scofflaws of medical cannabis, would be the perfect foil for Ms. Haag. But her focus on Harborside makes a mockery of the government’s enforcement efforts.

It is the epitome of irony. Haag’s lack of judgment, in addition to her direct assault on her bosses’ stated policies, is the impetus to let her go. And if the administration is loath to fire her for political reasons, may we suggest a transfer? Nome, Alaska would be a good choice. That state welcomes rogue, overly-aggressive and intellectually challenged leaders.

Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley who has worked under contract on the city of San Jose’s medical marijuana policies.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

31 Comments

  1. “Attorney General Eric Holder stated in a memo: ‘We limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law.’”

    Haag,works for the flip-flop bozo, Holder – that might be part of the problem.

    • But let us all agree, we are all going to vote for Obama this year right? Anyone who says they’re not going to vote can’t be taken seriously. I mean legalize it already but there are much bigger things going on in this country than this.

    • Why haven’t they taken down Organnican in Santa Rosa who filter their monies through Delaware State to avoid California State Taxes?  Look it up. Why is this person who has three dispenseries in California and makes multi-million dollars per year still in operation. At least Harborside has interest in helping Heal their customers where Organnican interest is in harming the customer pushing them around and selling people bad molded medicine… Look them up in Yelp.. to see how little help they give. So back to the question—- Why is Organnican still open??

  2. You must be smoking, all clubs need to be outlawed.  Any pot head can get a presription.  What a joke, lets get to a more important topic.  PLEASE!

    Rich, again your turning into another PO!  Worthless post!  I know you need to make money with your political contacts. But your not helping us grow.

    • Dave Hodges isn’t paying tax for a simple, yet elegant argument.

      If prescription medicine can’t be taxed by Federal law, then is the tax on prescription marijuana even legal?

      Rich is attacking Dave Hodges because if Dave wins, all this promise of, “We’ll be making MILLIONS in taxes” that Rich has made to elected officials will be nullified, and the city will have to pay back all the taxes that it took from the clubs, or surrender it to the feds.

      Scary thought isn’t it?  Would really be mud on Mr Robinsons face if that happened…  Fact is that money is already spent.

      Every pot club owner with a political awareness is watching his case very closely.

  3. Totally agree , Marijuana should be legalized. There are so many worse drugs to use and abuse , Alcohol being the worst. I personally do not partake , nor do I drink , But I do believe in the right for people to do so . there are many reasons for people to legitimaly seek and use Medicinal Marijuana . like it or not , no one knows the pain or circumstances for some else. Both Over the counter meds and Alcohol are abused more than Marijuana. people need to relax and educate themselves. it might not be for you but that doesnt mean its not for someone else

  4. I thought you were a big Obama supporter.  Why are you encouraging folks to vote Libertarian?

    You’re going to claim that you were only quoting someone else, but your intent is clear.  At least to anyone with half a brain.

    • Not encouraging a vote for Johnson, just stating a fact.  My goal is to help the President—My belief is that the top members of the administration do not condone the current enforcement actions in California and are unaware their policy is not being followed.

      Nothing else makes sense.

      • If Obama wins California, he gets all of California’s votes in the Electoral College.  I see this pot issue as being a small, small California issue, and even if it were a big issue I wouldn’t see Obama being challenged in California.  You could have explained that too.

        Your belief that top member of the Obama Administration “are unaware their policy is not being followed.” is likely to be the case.  It covers more than pot in California too.  Thanks for bring that to our attention.

      • Really,

        “My goal is to help the President.”

        This regime needs to go away before this country never recovers.  My God (can I say that and be politically correct).  We are in a free fall and some still praise him.  Why not comment on the plans to take away morgage interest tax benefits after the election.  Are you kidding me, 90% of govt. tax rewards come from homeowners.

        Dooms day is really coming soon, unless we elect a NEW president!

        • Tax relief for those struggling with mortgages helps strengthen the economy, in part because it allows many middle-class families more money to spend. It’s essentially a transfer of private debt to public debt. I understand why conservatives dislike that policy, because they believe it violates moral principles. However, private debt is far more harmful to the economy than public debt, and policies like this can help us actually get out of this depression.

  5. I agree it won’t affect CA, but nationally a war on marijuana unnecessarily drives away some solid base support in OH, VA, CO, NV.  Young people in those states are far more likely to show up for Marijuana than Healthcare or even Student Loans.

  6. Boy, I wish I had the audacity to point the finger at someone else and say, “Get them, not me”.  Way to take the adult stance on the subject.  Cause lord knows what helps a movement is bickering and in fighting.

    • The movement is not helped, ror does it increase crediblity by failing to police its own.

      There are good collectives and bad.  There are taxpayers and nontaxpayers, there are those that are a nuisance and those that are not, there are those who have quality medicine and those who do not, there are experts regarding the product and those who are not——if the industry, among themselves, cannot come up with a standard for doing business and eradicate the shops that are giving the industry a bad name, then the government will equate all by the lowest common demoninator.

      That is how the government is winning now, they have figured out to portray all shops as nothing more than a nuisances run by less than savory people.  It time we helped them distinguish beween the two.

  7. This is a confusing and somewhat disturbing post because although you have significant credentials, you seem to openly jeopardize your credibility immediately by displaying the Harborside banner. I am not sure it was your intent but it is perceived then that you are either employed or shilling for them in some way. Although I am offended that the feds can shut down any provider, Harborside more than anyone appears to flaunt federal law by “selling” marijuana. Some of your content is useful but I want to share some analysis of the rest of your post:

    1. You say H-side uses proper protocol and pays taxes and therefore is a model for a good citizen.  My idea of a model citizen is not one who goes on national TV with a holier than thou attitude to say they are the biggest seller of marijuana in the country and then gets threatened to shut down by the United Stated Government.

    2. You say “we” know who the bad operators are as they fail to pay their taxes as mandated by Measure U. This is a tax which I think you supported that makes many ill, disadvantaged people pay 7% more for their medicine on top of our regular “sales” tax. Rich – CommonSense says this is soooooo wrong!

    3. You later say that San Jose has a list of bad operators and then segue to defining Dave Hodges of A2C2 as someone who is disruptive and gives the industry a bad name.  CommonSense seems to tell us that your post is exactly what you are describing of others and in fact potentially much more disruptive to the unity of San Jose citizens. Whether you want to admit it or not, by calling out someone who provides a valuable service to many of our citizens and fights improper laws by working directly with city leaders to help define proper regulations is disruptive. CommonSense suggests that you are not giving enough facts for people to be able to form objective opinions of these issues on their own. Again, your credibility is in question as it seems you have a personal issue with Dave Hodges.

    4. You finish by digressing into sarcasm by suggesting that Haag be transferred to Nome, Alaska along with some other petty comments.  You would have been better served to summarize and finish with some cogent statement of your viewpoints. Instead of displaying an amateurish attempt at humor and surprising lack of professionalism, you could have provided us with useful information and ideas.

  8. 420Commonsense;

    The Harborside logo is a decision by the editor.  My blog at Robinsonwins.com has a different photo.  You can describe the distribution of marijuana any way you want; but if consideration is given for medicine it is a sale. 

    1)  I assume by your statement that Martin Luther King was less than a model citizent.  In any fight for civil rights in the past, people went to jail to overcome bad policy by the U.S. Government.  Harborside is a model citizen.

    2)  If it marijuana is taxed at 7% and producers and patients are not harrassed, I can live with it.  But I too believe there should be no tax.

    3)  If the Marijuana community is going to survive, it must distinguish between those who are trying to work within the syatem and those who are not.  Harborside clearly is, Mr. Hodges clearly is not.

    4)  I may have let my frustration at the situation get the best of me by my attempted humor to compare Ms. Haag with Ms. Palin and seek her transfer to Alaska.  That said, the Federal Government should be arresting bankers who funding terrorists *HSBC” or conspiring to set the LIBOR rate (Barclays) and leaave people who are trying to provide medicine to patients alone.

    • Rich this system as you call it turns a blind eye to criminal element within it’s scene.

      I won’t name names but, I heard one of your clients conducts business from a jail cell.

      We cannot be so desperate for taxes, that we turn to criminals to bail us out.

      Why should Hodges pay into a system that does not create a level playing field for everyone in this service industry?  Do you think it’s OK that one of your clients has ties to the mexican mafia?  Is that OK since they pay taxes? 

      What about shops that do not truly know the entire supply chain, buying medicine from criminals.. Is that OK because they pay a tax?

      It’s OK that their buddies south of the border cut off the heads of their rivals, tape it with their iphones, and upload it to youtube.. We don’t mind those kind of people in this industry because, “They pay a tax!”

      Dave is about as clean as it gets.  Even if he paid his tax, there is still zero regulation in this industry.  Perhaps the Marijuana regulations were a bit strict, and I can’t speak for Mr Hodges, but I think if he knew the city was making an effort to “weed out” (no pun intended) the criminal element from the business, he *might* be open to taxes.

      I made a long post about this, comparing it to my own plight in the karaoke industry (where a lot of crooked operators do not get their karaoke from legal, copyright/trademark license fees paid.. aka pirated tracks)

      I can really relate to Dave on that level.

      • “I won’t name names but, I heard one of your clients conducts business from a jail cell.”
        Are you even capable of naming names? Or is this just a tumor that you heard?

        If a collective owner has gang ties, the solution is to prosecute him, not to allow all of the other collectives to stop paying their taxes. That’s a non-solution.

        If you really care about prosecuting gang members who you think are trying their hands at legally distributing marijuana, then you should realize that the reason why it’s not being done now is because San Jose doesn’t have the police resources to do it. Those members of the marijuana community who refuse to pay their taxes are partially to blame.

        • If I were a psychoanalyst, I would probably think there was some significant meaning behind the fact that I accidentally wrote “tumor” instead of “rumor”…

        • Well apparently the moderators have decided to protect someone.  Could be they’re protecting me from myself.  I had a comment that laid out my expertise pretty well, but again, maybe it’s not something for public consumption at this time.

          It’s not a rumor.  I’ve done my homework, found my citations (background checks on Lexis Nexis) and I can assure you, there is at least one club with a felon currently serving time in Quentin on its board.  Remember, ranching family? We’re good at digging.

          I like backing my statements up with facts, but given the moderation on my comments, now probably isn’t the time to make these facts public, at least not here anyways.

          Tell you what Dakota, you know where I work right?  Why don’t you come down and talk to me about it.

          On a separate note, something tells me I know you IRL.

    • Rich,

      A) Rich>“The Harborside logo is a decision by the editor.  My blog at Robinsonwins.com has a different photo.”

      This is an out right lie. View the screenshot of your own site here: http://a2c2.us/Robinson-Lies.jpg

      B) Rich>“You can describe the distribution of marijuana any way you want; but if consideration is given for medicine it is a sale.”

      BOE has ruled that medical marijuana sales does not meet the definition of sale of a medicine. See the BPG Ruling: http://bit.ly/BPG-owes-6million

      If it did meet the definition of a “medicine” it would NOT be taxed.

      Rich, Please provide the section of CA law that says a collective must define it’s activities as a “sale”.

      1)“Harborside is a model citizen.”
      When all the facts are exposed you will understand the real truth.

      Rich, Please provide the section of CA law that allows a collective to sell marijuana to someone they know plans on taking it out side the state of CA. FYI, when Harborside “sells” marijuana to someone who lives outside the state of CA, it exceeds CA Law and could be considered interstate drug trafficking.

      Rich, also please provide the section of CA law that allows Cannbe/HMA(Harborside Management Association) to profit via a percentage of “sales of cannabis” from El Camino Wellness (who has been recently raided).

      2) I do pay 100% of the taxes required by the city of SJ. Please see my response to Dakota:
      http://www.sanjoseinside.com/news/entries/7_20_12_dave_hodges_medical_marijuana_a2c2_harborside/#comment-468431

      3) Your opinion on me is based on the people who pay you, not the facts. Just remember this, if it were not for this appellate court decision in my favor: http://bit.ly/SJCBCvsHorwedel-Appeal-Decision preventing the city from sending out letters. Every club in SJ (including Harborside) would have got a letter from the city telling them they had to shut down after the referendum (exactly like what happened in San Diego: http://bit.ly/SDCrackDown ).

      When the dust settles and the trials are done, I know where I will stand.

      I just hope karma catches up to you and the shady people you represent.

      • “Rich, Please provide the section of CA law that says a collective must define it’s activities as a “sale”.”
        I think the argument isn’t so much that a collective must define it’s activities as a sale, but rather that a sale must be defined as a sale, and thus the activities that occur at collectives constitutes a sale, regardless of the collectives definition.

        • Dakota,

          In the case of California Consumer Cooperatives, see page 21 of this document: http://www.boe.ca.gov/pdf/pub61.pdf
          “CONSUMER COOPERATIVES—Tax does NOT apply to membership fees, and labor performed in lieu of such fees, for organizations engaged in business for the mutual benefit of its shareholders, and which are composed of ultimate producers or consumers.”

          In California, the BOE decides what a “sale” is and when it “occurs”. In the case of a “true collective” the BOE has taken the stance that “there is no sales or use tax liability that occurs”. The reason I owe the BOE 130k is they are claiming SJCBC is NOT a “true collective”. This is a point that will have to be decided by the court.

  9. LOL.  Thanks for the outburst, you have simply made the truth of your “ubiquitous and less than credible”  demeanor obvious to all.

    You are not a lawyer and your legal analysis is flawed beyond belief—but continue your Quixotic crusade in the courts.  Happy to see who is standing after the dust settles.

    I was, however, wrong regarding the logo.  I had chosen another picture of feds hauling marijuana out of a clinic.  My assistant posted the Harborside logo, for that I do apologize.  I had assumed Josh chose the graphic. 

    Always happy to correct a mistake.

    • Rich,

      Your credibility is the only one in question.

      People like yourself are what give both Attorneys and PR Consultants a bad name. Please provide your legal sources & describe how my “legal analysis is flawed beyond belief”. If you are unable to do so, it is proof of your complete lack of credibility.

  10. I’m not going to give you a free legal analysis.

    But I will give you just one example of where your analysis is “flawed”.  There is a difference between ownership of an entity and the sale of a product.

    We are done.

    • Rich,

      This is from Dale Gieringer of California NORML in reference to my post titled “U.S. Attorney May Not be Out of Line” ( http://bit.ly/A2C2-vs-HS ):
      “Hi Dave –
        Interesting analysis.  Not unlike the tight reading of SB 420 that our legal chair Bill Panzer expounds to clients.  Interestingly, Sen. Vasconcellos, the author of SB 420 takes a much more expansive view.  We’ll have to let the courts sort it out.
      – Dale”
      (note: the “views” of Sen. Vasconcellos have no bearing on the courts or how a judge interprets of the law)

      Are you suggesting you understand this subject better then Bill Panzer?

      Rich>“There is a difference between ownership of an entity and the sale of a product.”

      This is the best example yet of your lack of understanding of the situation.

      FYI, the lawyers at the California State Board of Equalization (BOE) sent me this in an Official legal interpretation of the collective model A2C2 uses:
      “Under the scenario described, since there has been no “sale” of cannabis, there is no sales or use tax liability that occurs”

      Are you suggesting you have researched this subject more then the Attorneys at the BOE, and know something they do not? or are you suggesting the BOE’s interpretation of when a “sale” occurs or what a “sale” is, is wrong?

      Please enlighten us with any court cases or direct quotations of the law that support your beliefs.

      I have access to plenty of highly qualified attorneys. Some who have been practicing this area of law for over 20 years. I have no need for a legal analysis from someone who is incompetent in this area of law such as yourself or the scam artist James Anthony.

      I have provided more then enough factual references to back up everything I have stated. Unless you plan on backing up your claims, please stop embarrassing yourself. If you are not an expert in an area of law, you should not represent as if you are.