Feds aim to snuff out huge pot clubs

In what is playing out as one of the grandest entrapment schemes ever devised by law enforcement, the federal government continues its extermination of the nascent medical marijuana industry created at the explicit will of California voters.

It’s like a really, really bad episode of Bait Car. But instead of an unlocked Honda Prelude, federal authorities allowed an entire industry to be born, mature, and then be systematically marked for execution by an effective, efficient prosecution machine.

Tuesday, Harborside Health Center became the latest operation targeted by federal prosecutors. Workers at Harborside — which calls itself the world’s largest marijuana dispensary, with more than 100,000 clients — found a forfeiture notice from the feds taped to their doors on Tuesday.

Melinda Haag, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, confirmed the civil forfeiture actions against Harborside in a statement:

“The filing of the civil forfeiture complaints against the two Harborside properties is part of our measured effort to address the proliferation of illegal marijuana businesses in the Northern District of California.”

Harborside’s attorney, Henry Wykowski, reiterated the club’s compliance with California law to the Chron:

“Nobody gets into Harborside without a recommendation from their doctor.”

In their own statement, Harborside’s Executive Director Steve DeAngelo outlined their plans to fight the forfeiture:

“We will contest the DOJ action openly and in public, and through all legal means at our disposal. We look forward to our day in court, and are confident that justice is on our side.”

In a larger constitutional sense, the issue at hand is barely about smoke at all. It’s more about how our union — the United States of America, after all — handles disagreements between individual state and federal laws.

Locally and at the state level, millions of Californians have spoken. Proposition 215 heralded our support for the concept of medical marijuana nearly 16 years ago.

Just about half of all Californians support the outright legalization of pot. And many of us support the use of law enforcement and judicial resources on crimes other than the routine use and sale of pot by otherwise law-abiding citizens.

In the eyes of federal authorities, though, millions of Californians criminalize themselves each day. Sometimes multiple times a day. Sometimes right now.

As residents of the Bay Area and California, we have to ask ourselves: What exactly have we done here to stir up such a hornet’s nest of federal scrutiny?

Was it California’s consistent support of Democratic candidates and issues — delivering both votes and cash? Or was it our state’s history of pioneering legislation and standards that eventually get adopted at a federal level?

Whatever the reason, federal law enforcement — and ultimately, of course, the White House — wants to stay as far away from a contact high as possible, showing no signs of relaxing their policy of ruthless, throat-stepping, resource-draining enforcement actions that are as confusing and expensive as they are disappointing.

Harborside plans a news conference at Oakland City Hall Thursday morning at 9. They tweeted a supportive message to clients Thursday afternoon: