From the surface, it appears nothing in any respect just like the nation’s most profitable dispensary of medical marijuana: a nondescript drab construction standing simply throughout the road from considered one of Oakland’s bustling harbors (thus the identify). The composition of automobiles within the parking zone bears little resemblance to the lot outdoors a Grateful Dead live performance: multiple armed forces sticker was noticed on the best way to the door. Inside, the employees and sufferers look even much less like stoner stereotypes: a middle-aged man with a freshly-trimmed haircut and a pinstripe go well with waits for drugs alongside a kindly-looking previous lady together with her white hair tied up in a bun. After a pleasant greeting by the safety employees (who look succesful however non-threatening), the attention turns to a desk on the left the place each volunteers and employees wait to reply affected person questions. To the appropriate is the drugs bar, slicker and extra interesting than any chain-store pharmacy counter, lined with what appears just like the after-work rush: a minimum of twenty-five sufferers of all ages and race wait for his or her consultations. Other than the conspicuous statue of Ganesha on an altar and the handfuls of child clones glowing underneath purple lights, only a few visible clues would recommend, on first look, that the place had something to do with hashish.
Indeed, virtually each element about Harborside Health Center appears calculated to counter enduring stereotypes about California’s medical marijuana business. While some dispensaries have developed a popularity for thuggishness, Harborside emphasizes smiling service. In a time when a small minority of dispensaries are underneath investigation for secretly pocketing unlawful income, Harborside spends tens of millions of dollars yearly in offering free holistic well being remedies to its members; and even supporting native, state, and federal authorities by way of hefty tax funds. Though some dispensaries have endured criticism of their inaccessible costs, Harborside offers drugs freed from cost to low-income sufferers or any member prepared to donate their time writing letters for the reform of federal regulation. That drugs comes from a powerful choice. Under a good-looking glass enclosure rested no less than a dozen sorts of well-manicured buds, displayed for fast appreciation of their colours, fullness, measurement, and texture – not an uncommon sight in any respectable dispensary. But what units Harborside aside is the labeling: every bowl of dried flower consists of an figuring out paper itemizing the pressure, worth, and – most unusually – outcomes of efficiency testing from Steep Hill Laboratories, Harborside’s personal personal efficacy and security testing facility. By utilizing the amenities at Steep Hill, Harborside can report the concentrations of a number of cannabinoids like THC and CBD, in addition to chemical compounds which will not be seen to the bare eye. For these sufferers preferring various supply strategies, Harborside’s bar additionally contains a respectable if not exhaustive choice of edibles, tinctures, and lotions.
The general impact is unmistakable: here’s a dispensary decided to set itself aside. This strategy has introduced Harborside nice notoriety, each needed and undesirable. On the one hand, the efforts of Harborside’s aggressive public relations marketing campaign hold proudly on the partitions. Their marketing campaign for the highlight has spilled over into tv, with the primary episode of their new actuality collection “Weed Wars” which premiered on The Discovery Channel final November – all a part of a coordinated marketing campaign to point out what founder Steve DeAngelo says is the reality concerning the enterprise, in an try and fight many years of lies . On the opposite hand, a lot constructive press has led to shut scrutiny from the federal authorities, which, after a prolonged audit declared that Harborside had underpaid its revenue taxes by $2 million in tax years 2007 and 2008 – citing Internal Revenue Code Section 280E, a particular tax provision making use of solely to companies “trafficking in a controlled substance” forbidden underneath federal regulation. This part, initially meant to assist regulation enforcement in seizing the belongings of drug cartels, is now getting used to single out dispensaries like Harborside and forbid them from utilizing routine deductions like lease and utilities from their federal tax returns, a transfer DeAngelo calls discriminatory and designed to place law-abiding dispensaries out of enterprise. DeAngelo could also be proper concerning the authorities’s intentions, however at an hour earlier than closing time the road for drugs, nonetheless populated with all types of individuals, hasn’t shrunk in any respect. It’s onerous to consider Harborside Health Center might be going away any time quickly.
First appeared in Issue three of Cannabis Now Magazine.