Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Judge: Pot shops must close immediately

LAKE FOREST – A Superior Court judge has issued a final order requiring all medical marijuana dispensaries in the city to close immediately.

Judge David Chaffee ruled that "all defendants and their officers, agents, employees, representatives and all persons acting in concert or participating with them are prohibited and restrained from engaging in committing, providing the location or performing by any means activity related to the distribution of marijuana."

The order, made public Monday, appears to be the final chapter in the city's effort to shut down the dispensaries which officials say are operating in violation of the city's zoning code.

In September, Lake Forest sued 35 people in the city, including medical marijuana dispensary owners and retail landowners who rented space to them. Since then, 11 collectives have shut down; 10 continue to operate.

"This has been an important issue to the city," said Jeffrey Dunn, who has litigated the cases on part of the city. "They (dispensaries) create a whole host of problems for the city. They are not and never have been an allowable use."

The city's attorneys are contacting the remaining dispensaries to see of they will shut down voluntarily or if the Orange County Sheriff's Department needs to enforce the judge's order, Dunn said.

The remaining open dispensaries include: 215 Agenda, Vale Tudo Café, Lake Forest Patients Collective Association, Lake Forest Wellness Center and Collective, Evergreen Holistic Collective, Independent Collective of Orange County, GGICO, The Health Collective, New Amsterdam Cooperative and the Lake Forest Community Collective.

Chaffee issued his initial ruling on the issue May 12, siding with the city and allowing it to seek a preliminary injunction to stop the dispensaries from operating. The city argued the dispensaries violate zoning laws.

Chaffee agreed, citing two reasons:

•Cities are legally prohibited from passing land-use ordinances that violate state or federal law. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, so land-use laws that allow medical marijuana dispensaries would be prohibited.

•Because the city municipal code does not allow dispensaries, they have to be closed down.

Dunn said he believes Chaffee's ruling could eventually force the closure of all marijuana dispensaries in the state. For now, because the ruling is a trial court decision, it applies only to Lake Forest.

"Were it to be appealed and a court of appeal would uphold this ruling, it could be precedent setting for other cities in California," Dunn said after the May 12 decision. "It means medical marijuana dispensaries aren't allowed in the city of Lake Forest and they shouldn't be allowed in any cities – that's the big story in this."

Christopher Glew represents some of the dispensaries in the city. On Monday afternoon, he said none of his clubs had been served with papers, ordering them to close.

"If the police were to take action, it would be an abuse of police power because this is a civil order," he said. "The proper remedy would be to address it with a contempt proceeding."

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