Hundreds of medical marijuana patients, advocates, activists, and supporters gathered at Oakland’s City Hall yesterday to protest the federal government’s ongoing “crackdown” against medical cannabis dispensaries in California.
The rally and march, timed to coincide with a visit by President Obama to the city’s historic Fox Theater for a fundraiser, came less than two weeks after federal prosecutors filed a civil forfeiture action against Harborside Health Center. The nationally renowned dispensary, which remains fully licensed by the city, has since vowed to remain open while fighting the federal government’s attempt to seize their building.
Harborside’s director, Steve DeAngelo, who helped organize the event, used the occasion to urge public officials to put a freeze on all medical marijuana enforcement actions until they can be properly reviewed, and to end immediately all federal interference with state law. “We’re not asking for anything the President and the US Attorney General hasn’t already promised us,” he said to loud applause.
The majority of the day’s program was then turned over to what DeAngelo termed the “lost voices” of medical marijuana patients, including those he said would be most vulnerable should they get forced back into to the black market as retail options close.
Various speakers told their personal stories, praising medical cannabis as a treatment for cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, severe pain, and other serious medical conditions, while reporting how the natural, herbal remedy helped them cut back on, or even eliminate, dangerous and addictive prescription drugs.
Jason David, whose family was featured on an episode of the Discovery Channel’s Weed Wars, explained how high CBD medical cannabis he accesses through Harborside provides tremendous benefits for his son, who is stricken with Dravet Syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy. He said his five-year-old suffered nearly daily seizures before starting cannabis treatments, but has since seen a miraculous improvement in quality of life while reducing his daily pill intake from two-dozen to just four.
At 3PM, the crowd gathered on the sidewalk alongside City Hall in preparation for a march through downtown Oakland – their signs reading “Fight crime, not cannabis” drawing near constant honking from supportive motorists in one of America’s most pot tolerant cities.
Since protesters never got close enough along their route to directly confront the president, the clear highlight of the march came when the procession reached the headquarters of Oaksterdam University, another beloved local cannabusiness recently targeted by federal officials. With founder Richard Lee himself among those on the march, the crowd chanted “Long live Oaksterdam,” in honor of the esteemed organization’s many years of dedicated activism.
For more information on Harborside’s fight against federal forfeiture, keep an eye out for the December issue of HIGH TIMES, which will feature an exclusive interview with HHC director Steve DeAngelo.