Status. Clout. Juice. Whatever it is -- the intangibles that humans need in order to govern other humans -- Willie Lewis Brown's got it.
Da Mayor and current kingmaker is also, technically, at risk of having Justice Department officials swoop down upon his residence at the St. Regis Hotel and seize some of his Gucci shoes.
You see, Brown also has some of Harborside Health Center's money. Drug money -- and assets bought with drug money -- can legally be seized by the feds at any time.
The Oakland-based marijuana dispensary -- the country's largest -- is at
the moment subject of a federal asset-forfeiture proceeding. So we were
surprised a few weeks ago to read in Brown's column that he's taken on some work for Harborside,
which could really, really use some of Brown's might with folks in
Washington, including our very own congresswomen, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
what's Willie doing for Harborside, exactly, aside from making sure the
pot club's bank account works properly?
It's not clear.
Brown made his name in the 1960s representing pimps and drug dealers as a defense attorney prior to his epic run as a lawmaker in Sacramento. He broke the news of his cannabis client via his Jan. 2 column in the Chronicle, in which he reported that Harborside threw a very nice holiday party -- possibly, he posited, because of the cookies.
Fine attempts at drug humor aside, Brown's relationship with his client is vague at best. A spokeswoman for Harborside said that Brown acts as "a political legal consultant and supporter to Harborside," but that any more substantive questions -- such as what the hell that means, and if Brown himself is a medical cannabis patient -- would have to be answered by the former mayor.
So SF Weekly put in a call to Song Schreiber of Willie L. Brown, Jr. Inc. Reached Wednesday and Thursday, Schreiber said Da Mayor would have to field any questions related to his Harborside duties. "He's very busy," she said, when asked when we could find out more.
True, it was quite a big week for Harborside -- the dispensary lost a friend in its fight against the forfeiture proceeding filed in July when a federal judge tossed out a motion filed by the city of Oakland. Oakland argued that a seizure of the dispensary would lead to irreparable harm to the city. They might have a point: Oakland would be hard-pressed to replace the $1 million-plus in tax revenue the dispensary pays every year.
This is probably why Harborside CEO Stephen DeAngelo put Brown on the payroll -- Harborside needs friends, and who better to lobby powerful members of Congress than the unstoppable Brown? In particular, one would hope he could work on Feinstein, who is a staunch supporter of the Drug War.
And maybe he is. But until we know, consider this: Brown's life isn't so much different from yours and mine -- provided we sit on a pile of money part of which the federal government could legally seize.