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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Inside Man - Marijuana
Aired June 23, 2013 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MORGAN SPURLOCK, HOST (voice-over): Marijuana has not always been hated by the U.S. government. In fact, before 1937, it wasn't even considered an illegal drug. But after prohibition, the government needed a new evil to go after, so they formed the federal bureau of narcotics and put marijuana near the top of the hit list and they have been hating on pot ever since.
But in 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis and 18 other states followed suit. Now, with more and more states not only decriminalizing, but legalizing marijuana, can the federal government still believe that pot is as dangerous as heroin? And what will it take for the feds to finally respect state cannabis laws? Turns out, one particular dispensary in Oakland, California, could decide the fate of medical marijuana for the entire nation.
(On-camera): Time the go sell some weed. Get ready.
In California where we are right now, medical marijuana has been legal since 1996. And once it was made legal, there was a proliferation of dispensaries where people could go and get marijuana, you know, marijuana products. Once they started popping up, then the department of justice started clamping down on them for being illegal.
So, while it is legal in California for them to sell medical marijuana, it is illegal federally for these places to exist, so it is a catch 22. I don't know, but it is going to be really interesting to see where you should draw the line. Is legalization the answer or just opening up a much larger can of worms and a potential for more problems, because that is what a lot of people will argue. The minute you legalize it, we will become a nation of unemployed good for nothing sitting around eating Twinkies and not having jobs.
(Voice-over): But in order to purchase or let alone smoke any of that sweet medical MJ, first, I need a note from my doctor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, there.
SPURLOCK: Hey, how are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good. Do you have an appointment to me?
SPURLOCK: Yes, I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Is this your first time doing this?
SPURLOCK: Yes, it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, great. Please fill out the questionnaire.
SPURLOCK: I understand under controlled subs-connect in 1970s hence this kind of schedule one to finding it is highly addictive and having potential for abuse. I understand the cannabis is a medicine, use in treating serious and debilitating medical conditions. I acknowledge that I have been advised not to drive vehicles or operate machinery or participate in any active they that require state judgment or analytical activities while under the influence of cannabis. Are you currently using or did you use in the past any of the following drugs -- cocaine, ecstasy, downers, crack pills, opiates or mushrooms, lsd -- a lot of damning information to this questionnaire.
HANYA BARTH, DOCTOR: Thanks for filling this out.
SPURLOCK: Yes, thank you.
BARTH: OK. So, let's see. Morgan Spurlock, you are 42-years-old, and you would like to use marijuana, and you think it might help you for anxiety and insomnia, and you have talked to the doctor about your insomnia?
SPURLOCK: I have.
BARTH: You have. OK. And did your doctor have any recommendations?
SPURLOCK: Yes, he gave me some xanax?
BARTH: Do you that prescription bottle with you or not?
SPURLOCK: I do.
BARTH: Excellent. So the fact that you have a primary doctor, I do kind of a brief physical exam. Don't fall asleep here now.
SPURLOCK: It wouldn't take much.
BARTH: I can tell. I see no reason why you shouldn't try the marijuana. I will make out a recommendation for you, so different strains will help you sleep and different strains will help you to be more alert. And for some people, it can create a little bit of paranoia and anxiety, and depends upon the strain.
SPURLOCK: I don't need more paranoia in my life.
BARTH: No. Most of us don't.
There it is. Not only do I now have a card that makes me the ability to buy cannabis in the state of California, but because I have this form, which I was even more shocked by, now I have the ability to grow marijuana, and in the state of California. And in San Francisco, I can grow up to 24 plants in my backyard if I so wanted to.
Now, that I have my card, the next stop is across the bay in Oakland, the Harborside health center. Harborside was founded in 2006 as a model of what a medical marijuana dispensary could be. They serve between 600 and 800 patients every single day making them the largest dispensary in the United States. But, according to the feds, Harborside is the largest illegal drug distribution center in the country. And today --
I'm Harborside's newest hire. Harborside faces an uncertain future, and federal efforts have already forced a closure of more than other 600 dispensaries in California alone. U.S. attorney Melinda Hague has pursued Harborside with a vengeance, but Harborside has decided to fight back. And within a month, the courts will decide whether or not Harborside can continue to do business in California.
It is a lot nicer than I thought it would be. It looks like a pot health clinic. It smells like my college bedroom.
Steve DeAngelo is the executive director and co-founder at Harborside health center.
Hey, how are you?
STEVE DEANGELO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CO-FOUNDER, HARBORSIDE: Hi. Welcome to Harborside.
SPURLOCK: Great to meet you.
DEANGELO: Yes. Nice to meet you, too.
SPURLOCK: Yes, thanks. What are the ailments that people come in here, when they are seeking to get some medicines and treatment, what are they suffering from? What is the scope?
DEANGELO: Well, you know, we see everything from very serious illnesses like cancer, HIV, AIDS, epilepsy to things like anxiety, depression and insomnia. We see a lot of patients with chronic pain. California law allows doctors the write a recommendation for any condition that can cannabis is active for, and it turns out that cannabis is effective for a wide range of conditions.
SPURLOCK: What happens when somebody gets here?
DEANGELO: So, the first thing that happens is outside. Patient show their medical cannabis documentation and their photo ID before they even admitted to the facility.
SPURLOCK: So, nobody can just walk in from the street?
SPURLOCK: (INAUDIBLE). DEANGELO: Three types of patients who will come through the door -- new patients, returning patients and patients who are bringing us medicine to distribute to the rest of the patients.
So, this is our reception area here. This is patients come in. We double-check their medical cannabis recommendation and make sure that you have not exceed your maximum amount of visits or amount of medicine to purchase and then you are welcome to, you can go on to the floor to select your medicine or to take advantage of some of the services that we have available here. We offer acupuncture, (INAUDIBLE).
SPURLOCK: Breaking tai chi, since yoga, says anyone to come here bringing these things, they can come for free.
DEANGELO: Completely free. They never have to buy anything. In addition to that, we also have a care package program for low-income that provides our low-income patient with a free gram and a half of medicine every week. We serve about 500 patients.
DEANGELO: Now we are going to be leaving the public part of our facility and going into the private secure area.
SPURLOCK: The first stop is here, the cannabis that comes to the Harborside is here, the intake department.
This is the most weed I have ever seen in my life.
DEANGELO: Well, you know, when you have 600 to 800 people coming through, you need to keep a little bit of medicine in stock.
SPURLOCK: The growers, all of them are members Harborside collective are first called individually to have their cannabis evaluated for quality and purity. Then, the quanti-can, a machine Steve co-invented tests the potency and chemical make of the plant giving in an exceedingly accurate portrait the pots make up. Hey, you guys invented that?
DEANGELO: We did.
SPURLOCK: You are like the Eli Whitney of marijuana, and that is your cotton gin right there?
DEANGELO: Well, it was a huge opportunity for innovation, American ingenuity.
SPURLOCK: If the products meet Harborside's strict standards, the plant is weed out, paid for and processed for sale. Harborside insists that all of the steps were taken to ensure the safe-hang quality of the medicine. But according to the feds, everyone of those steps is illegal.
DEANGELO: Step over here and I will show you sort of what the typical process is for helping a patients select their medicine. SPURLOCK: OK.
DEANGELO: Cannabis contains about 65 unique medical compounds called cannabioids. The ratio of those 65 chemical, one to another various and each one of the various different strains of cannabis and there are 600 strains that we know about.
Now, the interesting thing is that unlike varieties of wine all of which make you feel basically the same, each variety of cannabis has a slightly different effect.
Harborside classifies four major different types of cannabis. There are either indica dominant or sativa dominant.
SPURLOCK: What is the difference between indica and sativa?
DEANGELO: Sativa cannabis tends to produces a more cerebral and energizing effect. Whereas sedative tends to produce a more sedative and relaxing and pain controlling type of effect. So, another aspect of the selection process is the delivering mechanism for that cannabis. So, we encourage patients not to consumed raw Canada's flowers by means of smoking.
So if I had a patient who came to me and was complaining of chronic pain that woke them up or insomnia, and what they really wanted from the medicine was the ability to get a good solid at night for insomnia and what they really wanted from the medicine was the ability to get a good solid night's sleep, I would probably recommend to them one of these capsules here.
SPURLOCK: Where are these capsules come from?
DEANGELO: So, these are capsules made by, like all of our medicine, by patients.
SPURLOCK: And that is not all they make. There are tinctures for nausea, trappable concentrates for skin cancer lesions, edibles and beverages, even lotions and salves, treatments for all kinds of ailments.
DEANGELO: It is very important that patients have a wide range of varieties of cannabis, but also a wide range of different forms of cannabis and medicines.
SPURLOCK: You might guess that Harborside is a pretty good business and it is true. Om average, they sell more than 75,000 when the cannabis, each and every day, so it comes as no surprise, that the facility has a top-notched security system complete with sophisticated surveillance camera by metro glocks and are-enforced bullet.
So, all the money and all the weed, every night's lock up.
DEANGELO: Yes. I created Harborside to set a standard professionalism and abstinence that the rest of the industry hopeful would emulate that would allow up to show the rest of America that this is a substance not to be afraid, but really something is (INAUDIBLE).
SPURLOCK: But why a nonprofit? Why not say, we are making $25 million a year. We should make this a four problem (ph) business so we can actually really make some money?
DEANGELO: Well, because California law requires us to be a nonprofit and we are committed to being 100 percent compliant with the laws. So, we take that a nonprofit mandate very, very seriously. But, if the state of California saw a fit to make this activity a profit-making activity, we would embrace that with equal enthusiasm.
SPURLOCK: I bet you would. Incredible.
So, what is the plan for tomorrow?
DEANGELO: So, tomorrow at 8:30, we are having an all staff meeting to update and discussed our legal situation, the federal government. And then after that, we are going to put you to work in Fourth Hood.
DEANGELO: See you then.
SPURLOCK: I am blown away by how much of a well-organized business it was because the last thing you would expect is kind of is to kind of bunch of donor would be able to have a really organized business. And it is impressive. It is really impressive.
SPURLOCK (voice-over): Today's my first day at work at the Harborside health clinic. Even though more and more states believe that marijuana should be legal, the federal government feels otherwise.
Harborside's problems with the fed began back in 2009 with an IRS audit. Next, that the treasury department interfered with their banking operations, and finally, the U.S. attorney filed civilized forfeiture proceedings in July of 2012 meaning that all of Harborside's property and assets are now vulnerable to seizure.
Even though Harborside is fully compliant with the California law, the federal government used the dispensary as a criminal organization. But Harborside has chosen to fight back and has an unusual ally in their corner. The city of Oakland has taken U.S. government to court to keep Harborside up and running. This marks the first time any city has taken the U.S. government the court over its marijuana laws.
DEANGELO: So, our next big test is going to be December 20th. It is going to be a really historic day of hearings and critical constitutional issues about the power of localities, cities, the states from the federal government and their relationships to each are going to be discussed and implicated in this case. It is a case of huge national importance.
First, we are going to hear a motion from the city to completely stop any further proceedings. If the judge were to rule on that motion on that day, it would stop everything, dead in its traps and probably never resurrect it again. Then, we are going to hear motions from our landlords for the court to issue an order for us to cease and disease selling cannabis.
If we win, that mean, that we get our day in court and we will win. We will be in front of a bay area jury, and all we have to prove is that more harm will result from closing Harborside than results from allowing Harborside open, and I can make that case to a bay area jury with my hands tied behind my back, blindfolded and with a gag in my mouth.
DEANGELO: If we lose those injunctions, we will be issued with a cease and desist order.
So, what that means is that maybe, looking at a situation where we may need to adapt our business model. But I will tell you one thing for sure and certain, we will keep the commitment that we made to our patients six years ago, and more than six years ago to provide them with the highest quality medicine and the highest quality patient care possible. We will never ever abandon the patients who depend on us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Harborside phasing out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attention Harborside, attention Harborside. The time is now 10:00, and Harborside is open. All remaining staffs, please turn your channel to 3.
SPURLOCK: Hey, there, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. How are you doing?
SPURLOCK: Good, brother. What do you need today? Here is the cheese drain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is really interesting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then, I also need a single dose cube of dark chocolate.
SPURLOCK: So, you are here with your son?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, this is my son.
SPURLOCK: Yes. What do you use (INAUDIBLE) for, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heel spurs and carpal tunnels. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Migraine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Diabetes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have problem sleeping. I also have a herniated disc in my back and it helps the muscles relax.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I smell the haze?
SPURLOCK: Yes, you can. Chocolate chip. Chocolate chip. Chocolate.
What were you taking before?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was taking anti-depressants and synthetic hormones and sleeping medication and something to combat the side effect from the antidepressant.
SPURLOCK: Medication to deal with other medication.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) stabilizer, took it for three days and it made my kidney start to bleed.
SPURLOCK: So, were you having internal bleeding or you are like peeing --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: like peeing blood. Yes, I'm a young guy. I didn't at the time want to have to deal with that. And I feel fine after I smoked the right kind of strain.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of seniors grew up as did I did thinking that it was something only jazz musicians did, you know. But, we have all evolved. I mean the whole country is evolving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's hug it up, man.
SPURLOCK: Great to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to see you. I will see you tomorrow?
SPURLOCK: Yes. I will be here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, cool. I will see you then.
SPURLOCK: Thanks. Have a good night.
You see this place is all about the love. That is what I like. Not any attitude or angry people coming in. Nobody is screaming. Nobody yelling. It is all very kind of calm, cool, collected. It's nice.
Stand inside of a liquor store for an hour and see who comes like stumbling into a liquor store, and it is filled with angry people. There is not a lot of happy people wandering into the liquor store. Very different vibe here.
Next customer. Why do you like this place?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a really well run establishment. It is clean, and everyone is friendly and nice here.
SPURLOCK: And so that is 96 of pre-tax and before tax. How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you?
SPURLOCK: I'm good. What is your name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Captain Bob.
SPURLOCK: You are a senior veteran?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I spent a lot of time in Vietnam.
SPURLOCK: Is that where a lot of the pain comes from? Comes from then?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes. No question about it.
SPURLOCK: Like what kind of injuries did you have coming out of Vietnam?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I have three bullet holes in the leg. I don't take anymore vicodin, I don't take anymore (INAUDIBLE), I don't take anymore of those pills, nothing.
SPURLOCK: You are off of them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing. I go home with some of this and I sleep good and I'm not in pain.
SPURLOCK: See you next time you come in. Thanks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very, very much. I appreciate it.
SPURLOCK: Thank you, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't let them sons of a bitch to close you up.
SPURLOCK: Thanks, Robert.
SPURLOCK: What is interesting about marijuana, it is a schedule I narcotic, and all of this started because of Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon ultimately wanted to overthrow the, you know, the crazy hippies that were part of this peace and love movement that he saw as destructive to America, and so he was able to get it classified as schedule I narcotic carrying the same type of ramifications if you were caught with heroin or today, methamphetamines. Schedule I narcotics are defines as having three key straits, the drug or substance has high potential for abuse, it currently has now accepted medical use and treatment in the United States and it has been deemed unsafe for use under medical supervision.
It estimated that United States spends around $40 billion fighting the war on drugs annually and 13.7 billion of that has been on marijuana. All right, this, despite evidence that marijuana is far less addictive than even alcohol or tobacco which together, accounts for hundreds of thousands of American deaths each year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Continuing coverage of the federal the war on California pot shops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Tonight, we confirm that two valley pot shops have now been shut down by the feds and this is important, the shutdown came without warning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The two dispensary raids appeared to be connected to the discovery of a large marijuana growing operation two weeks ago in the stock in warehouse. Public records show corporate paper work for the medicine dispensary that the dispensary goes to Matthew Davies of property management in Stockton.
SPURLOCK: Are you ready to do this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
SPURLOCK: Matt Davis was federally indicted for growing the very marijuana that he sold in his two California dispensaries. Unlike Steve DeAngelo of Harborside health, Matt is facing a criminal prosecution as a result, now Matt, an MBA with a wife and two young children is facing up to 40 years in federal prison.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The case of Matt Davis more than any other case in the country demonstrates the conflict between state law and federal law with regard to medical marijuana. Matt Davies is facing charges for manufacture of marijuana even though the people of California voted overwhelmingly to permit medical marijuana use.
Matt worked hard to follow the state law. He read the statements by candidate Obama and then President Obama and his justice department saying that if you follow the state law, you will not be prosecuted by the federal government. Those statements that Matt relied on ended up to be false.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, everybody. Thank you.
SPURLOCK: It was in 2008 when then candidate Barack Obama denounced the bush administration raids on medical canvass.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You tube post shows the campaigning Barack Obama calling DEA raids on medical marijuana shops a waste of taxpayer money.
OBAMA: What I am not going to be doing is to use justice department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you prepared for the oath, Senator?
OBAMA: I am, sir. I, Barack Hussein Obama --
SPURLOCK: Upon taking office, the Obama administration made his campaign statements official policy with the justice department releasing the Ogden memo. This suggests that that government would no longer focus resources on individuals whose actions were unclear and unambiguous compliance with the state laws.
Basically, if you were using or growing marijuana for medical purposes in states where it is legal, you would not have to worry about the feds knocking down the door. This policy shift led to medical marijuana dispensaries proliferating all across states that had previously legalized it.
But contradictory to what the Ogden stated, in the following two years of its release, the department of justice actually increased its raids. In 2011, as the crackdowns continued, the justice department released a subsequent memo saying that the marijuana medical patients would be free from prosecution, but not industrial growers. By April 2012, the number of dispensaries raided grew to nearly 200, resulting in over 60 federal indictments. That is more raids in the first four years of the Obama administration than in all eight years of the George W. Bush presidency.
MATTHEW DAVIES, CONVICTED 40 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON: Harborside was a model that we looked to and were happy with. We thought that Steve was a pioneer in the industry, and we thought that he was definitely somebody to look at to do it right. The only way we diverged, which I guess became the downfall, we knew that Steve was beholden to the wholesale market, and thus the patients were paying much higher prices really than they should have to. And we thought how can we do it better than Steve? We can vertically integrate so we can lower the price of medicine so we can offer the same equivalent product that Steve did at 40 percent less.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I plotted my worst case scenarios, the idea of federal intervention was never one of them. I was naive for trusting our government and believing what they said.
MOLLY DAVIES, MATTHEW DAVIES' WIFE: Today, I don't accept that my husband is going to prison. I'm afraid of it. But I don't accept that it is go going to happen, because I think that there has to be someone who sees the situation and realizes what a gross miscarriage of justice it would be to put him in prison.
SPURLOCK: Dispensaries can't stay open without a steady supply of product to sell. Cannabis is a plant and for ha Harborside to operate, someone has to grow it.
In California, dispensaries are state licensed, but not any of the growers. Leaving them with no real legal protection and living under the constant threat of prosecution. Once targeted, a growing operation's legal consequences can be much more severe than dispensaries as they are often subject to severe mandatory sentences.
So I'm locked in the back of a blocked out van, somewhere in Northern California being driven to a undisclosed location where they grow vast amounts of marijuana, and there are stipulations that we have to follow now. We cannot show you the people who work there, we can't show anything who has work with their spaces, we can't show any hands or body parts. This is not sketchy at all.
We are driving into a building right now. You hear the dogs? They are closing the doors so we won't know where we are, and they are getting out.
When it comes to growing operations at least in the eyes of the federal government bigger is not better. Every time California or any other state has attempted to license a large scale growing operation, the government has stepped in and prohibited them from doing so. The growers rarely publicize their operations out of fear of being raid and arrested. This grower agreed to take us around the facility, but out of fear of prosecution, would not appear on camera and made us alter his voice. He was the only we found who would talk to us.
In the eyes of the government is this legal?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which government?
SPURLOCK: In the state? What does the state government say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are compliant and we are not.
SPURLOCK: And so would you be arrested or confiscate anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we don't know. Nobody really knows what happens. I mean, every story is different. This is actually a room that is just set up to go into flowering.
SPURLOCK: OK. This is like such a massive setup, and this is only one room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SPURLOCK: How many rooms like this do you have?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two. I would say this is a small to medium-sized commercial facility with hundreds of lights here, and there are people with small size and this city has no industry, so without us, the city would be worse than it already is. They say that one in three warehouses in the city, are closed.
SPURLOCK: One in three. Wow! That is amazing. So these are all of the ballasts for all the lights that in the rooms. You have air ventilation system that keeps the air circulating. If you look these are the charcoal filters and what each one of these round charcoal filter does is to filter out the air so you don't ever kind get that marijuana smell. And just here in these two rooms is about $500,000 of materials before they even grow plant number one. It is -- it's unbelievable.
Look at this. Holy cow! It is like a Cheech (ph)and Chong (ph) dream in here.
When you harvest, how many pounds would come out of marijuana plants would come out in 18- plants?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would hope for a pound a light.
SPURLOCK: A pound per light. So how many lights?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 50 lights.
SPURLOCK: So you are hoping for 50 pounds?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SPURLOCK: And let's do the math. The current price of a pound of OG Kush is $2700. And this one room with its 50 lights would produce $135,000 worth of product. The growing cycle takes three months, so that is so when you take out the room, it is going to be about $540,000 a year from each room.
But once you take out for your expenses, meaning you have a room that cost you 500,000 and you pay your employees and you pay your partners and investors, their dividends, what do you pay home?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you would have to ask it at the end of the year. I have not cashed a check for being positive. To be honest with you, I have not cashed (INAUDIBLE). One of the reasons that I'm here is because I believe in the movement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without being said, there is a lot of (INAUDIBLE) be made here.
SPURLOCK: Well, thank you very much to today. This is great. I appreciate it.
See you on the other side.
SPURLOCK (voice-over): Harborside is built its reputation on its commitment to patient's service. Today, I'm experiencing this firsthand going out on runs in their newly minted delivery service.
BRIAN BURGESS, HEAD OF DELIVERIES: All right, let's ride out.
SPURLOCK: In response to the constant threat of having their physical location shutdown, Harborside started the delivery service to continue to get the medications to the patients.
How many deliveries do you usually do in a day?
BURGEES: Maybe, it is anywhere from 25 to 40 deliveries in a day.
SPURLOCK: And what are the customers like? Are the people who can't travel, are they old, what is it?
BURGESS: You get a pretty good mix. Some people just really enjoy the convenience of it. There are a lot of senior citizens. There's patients who are quadriplegics, of course a lot of veterans, and some people just can't get a ride or they have lost their ride. I know that there are patients who have lost their ride because of the person who used to give them the ride is kind of sketched out because of the federal attention and some people don't want to come to the main dispensaries.
SPURLOCK: Where is the most interesting place you have made a delivery?
BURGESS: I think a church. I did not personally make the delivery, but I know one of the drivers had to go to the church.
SPURLOCK: Is what you do legal?
BURGESS: What we do is legal in the state of California. Of course, federally, it is still 100 percent prohibited.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
SPURLOCK: Hi, how are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
SPURLOCK: During the delivery, IDs examine and order's checked with the same thoroughness as if at the dispensary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead and count them.
SPURLOCK: OK. There is $53.
And because of the crackdowns on banks and credit card companies who had dealings with the dispensaries, all of the Harborside transactions are conducted in cash. Why is marijuana such an important part of your life?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a history of being extremely underweight. I go down to 80 pounds. That is not good. But if I will smoke a little before each meal, I find that I can eat more.
SPURLOCK: What happened to the foot?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the purpose why you are over here visiting myself today. SPURLOCK: What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I broke my ankle.
SPURLOCK: Gabrielle is a care giver for her husband, a veteran who did three tours of duty and currently struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.
How long has your husband been on medical marijuana now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three years.
SPURLOCK: How was it before?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that was not a pretty picture because we have to give him medicine. I think it was just making him more numb and not getting any results versus using pot. He's always on control. He can be someone that I can manage to be around and not afraid, because a lot of the times when they are, when they get out, they like to be isolated. They don't like to be around many people. We have kids. You need to be around.
SPURLOCK: And do you have like friends or families who think it is a mistake that you give it to him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grandmother. My grandmother, but she is 95 years old. I can't change that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, hello.
SPURLOCK: Hi, how are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm good. Come on in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not trying to be a vegetable, and I'm not trying to be on something that I won't ever be able to get off of.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With many of the pharmacological things are about.
SPURLOCK: When you went off of chemo, what about the natural remedies, and going on the cannabis oils and the hemp oils do for you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They help me sleep. And that is very, very important when you are trying to heal to get the regenerative sleep. And also, our brain function is coming back, and I have five beautiful children and six gorgeous grandchildren and I love them all. And so, you know, I want to be around, you know. I want to be around, but I want to be around and I want to be effective.
SPURLOCK: Why do you think there is so much pushback, you know, just not in California, but across the country with regards of medical marijuana?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because the pharmaceutical companies want to keep us so wrapped up in taking the pills and just pushing, pushing, pushing and against what is natural, what we can do for ourselves, how we can find new ways to stay healthy and this whole mindset that you feel the pain and you go to the doctor and you go to take a pill, and that is supposed to make you well. And so, I just really think it is about money.
SPURLOCK: Sondra may have a point, after all 3/4 of Americans are in favor of medical marijuana. Eighteen states in Washington, D.C. have formally legalized it for medical use, 14 states have decriminalized pot, and most recently Washington and Colorado have outright legalized it altogether.
So, if the country seems to be increasingly in favor of decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing it for medical use, why is the federal government so steadfast in the opposition? Well, one reason could be the lobbyists.
The alcohol industry, for-profit prisons and rehab centers stand to lose billions of dollars from pot's legalization, and law enforcement as well as many government departments and career politicians could lose jobs if the war on pot ends. Industries like these have a history of not letting anything get in the way of their profits.
U.S. attorney Melinda Hague issued a statement about Harborside which I find to be pretty compelling. She basically says that she now needs to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside, because the larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there is going to be abuse of the state's medical marijuana laws and marijuana in hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need.
So, basically what she is saying is that you are so big and you are so successful, that because of that, we want to make sure that by attacking you, no illegal ones pop up. That we are going to basically shut you down. It is kind of dumbfounding. So, I'm going to call Melinda Hague and kind of see what the word is from her.
Yes, I'm trying to reach Melinda Hague.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have reached the voice mail of Melinda Hague. He was attorney for the northern preserve of California. Please leave a message and we will be back to you as soon as possible, thank you.
SPURLOCK: Yes. I'm trying to reach U.S. attorney Melinda Hague. Melinda, this is Morgan Spurlock calling and I wanted to speak to you about Harborside medical and the civil forfeiture legal actions that are currently being put against them. If you could call me back, I would love to talk to you when you have a chance. Thank you, bye.
Nobody there. We are going to keep calling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not able to take your call right now. Please leave your name and number and reason for the call.
SPURLOCK: Morgan Spurlock calling for Melinda Hague.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not able to take your call right now.
SPURLOCK: Yes, we are trying to reach Melinda Hague's office please and once again, it is Morgan Spurlock after all. Thanks, bye.
Nobody is going to talk to us. It is very evident no one is going to talk to us. We are going to keep trying.
SPURLOCK (voice-over): With the court date in just a few days, we are heading to San Francisco to meet up with Henry Wykowski, the lawyer who represents Harborside health center.
Harborside is operating in dangerous legal waters. No dispensary has ever successfully fought back against the federal government, and no city has ever come to a dispensary's aid like Oakland. The city sees Harborside as the very model of a responsible business estimating it has taken $20 million out of street de dealer's hands.
Hi. I'm Morgan Spurlock.
HENRY WYKOWSKI, HARBORSIDE'S LAWYER: Nice to meet you.
SPURLOCK: Nice to meet you.
Why did you decide to take on their case?
WYKOWSKI: I admire what they are doing. I enjoy taking on challenging cases.
It would be most unfortunate if Harborside were closed down because the federal government would be depriving the states and the other dispensaries of a model that they should aspire to emulate. Harborside and you, and you and Harborside are the first medical marijuana cannabis dispensary that has stood up to the medical government. They have done it to other dispensaries but they have all quietly closed down.
SPURLOCK: Why do more people not fight back?
WYKOWSKI: They are scared and it is very expensive. The odds are overwhelming. It is very few people that are willing to stand up to the United States of America, and that is what he is doing. He is willing to make a sacrifice for what he believes in. I mean, this is the United States of America versus Harborside.
SPURLOCK: The day Steve DeAngelo has been waiting for is finally here. Chief federal justice Maria Elena James is hearing their motions, and she could effectively shutdown Harborside for good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came from Kentucky. I love you. I love you. I love your brother.
DEANGELO: I know if I died tomorrow that my life's work is going to be accomplished, and I don't think that the drug warriors like Melinda Hague can say the same thing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.
DEANGELO: All right. All right. There's Henry. OK.
SPURLOCK: The precedent-setting ruling today will likely help shape the future for cannabis for patients and proprietors and for all of the states with these laws on their books.
DEANGELO: I'm all set, baby.
WYKOWSKI: We are going to win.
DEANGELO: Absolutely. That is what we came here to do.
SPURLOCK: For Steve, a win is everything. A loss would be devastating.
SPURLOCK (voice-over): Steve has received the ruling from the judge, and a meeting to announce the decision to the Harborside staff and supporters has been called.
DEANGELO: I am happy to report to you that the federal judge in our case, the judge Elena Maria James ruled in our favor and said that Harborside does not have to stop selling cannabis, and the landlords cannot force us to stop selling cannabis, and our doors are going to remain open.
SPURLOCK: Even though this is a great victory for Harborside, their fight isn't over yet. The federal government is still focused on shutting them down. The next step is a trial, and only time will tell if the will of the people is more powerful than the 42-year-old laws of the federal government.
People will look at Steven and say, he is some crazy old stoner running the business, but I think that what he is doing is to really kind of changing the tide in perception of what medical marijuana really is. I mean, I think he is proving that there is a market for it. I think he is proving that there is a need for it. And I think that he is proving that there is a way to do it safely, efficiently, and what we are really start to turn people around to this notion when they see it is a business to do it, when they see there is not just shady guys on the street corners, people hanging out with tank tops and selling drugs, they see that it is, you know, people are running clean establishments that are safe, that ultimately, not only generate revenue for the city, but generate, you know, vast amounts of tax revenue for the country. I mean, it could really change things.
And if the government decides to regulate and tax, we might soon be calling the bureau of ATF, the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and marijuana.
On February 14th, 2013, Judge James ruled that the city of Oakland had no standing in suing the federal government on behalf of Harborside and threw the case out. Harborside is still awaiting a trial date to present their case in front of a bay area jury. The court date will most likely be scheduled for sometime in 2014.
Facing the possibility of a much longer sentence, on May 31st Matt Davies accepted a plea deal that will send him to federal prison for the mandatory minimum of five years.
As for U.S. attorney Melinda Hague, I have called, and called and called and nothing. That is what I am getting from the phone calls right now.