Another Victory for Marijuana Dispensaries in California

A ruling by a Riverside County Superior Court judge has reversed an earlier decision that granted an injunction against a Rancho Mirage dispensary, which had opened prior to the city’s ban. The ban has since been ruled unconstitutional. buds.jpg

Los Angeles marijuana attorneys know that rulings like this are creating a great deal of confusion, as the one thing they all have in common is that they are conflicting. The hope is ultimately that the California Supreme Court will sooner than later take on this issue and provide clear direction for the rest of the state.

This case involved the Rancho Mirage Safe Access Wellness Center. The judge had initially granted a win for the city, and then, at the last minute, reversed that ruling, allowing the center to remain open. In the subsequent ruling, the preliminary injunction that had been placed against the facility was denied, and the temporary restraining order issued on Aug. 6 was dissolved.

City officials have said they don’t know which ruling is the correct one, but the dispensary is going by the most recent decision.

The city council there enacted a dispensary ban back in 2011. In October, a lawsuit resulted in the overturning of that ban. The city is appealing that decision, but the case is still pending.

The city took on the Safe Access center, saying that the operators didn’t have a business license or a certificate of occupancy – something that is required of all businesses in there.

When the judge first approved the city’s restraining order against the facility, the operators applied for permits.

Interestingly, when they did this, they videotaped the exchange between the applicant and the city employee. That video depicts the employee telling the applicant that the certificate of occupancy request would go through a separate process, and that it would involve the city attorney’s office. The employee added that it was not likely to be approved.

Attorneys for the dispensary indicated that this essentially amounted to fraud.

The judge didn’t specifically address the video in his ruling.

Code enforcement officials with the city inspected the property on which the dispensary operates, denying the occupancy certificate on the grounds that it did not have enough parking for customers who may be disabled. Of course, this is simply a stall tactic.

Representatives for the dispensary said they are happy to accommodate disabled customers, but that the structure was erected prior to the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1992, which means the standards for that are more lax.

The judge’s order allows the dispensary three months to fix any deficiencies that were cited.

In the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs is the only one that has approved a limited number of dispensaries for operation. All of the others in the area, including Riverside County, has outlawed them. However, that county ban was declared unconstitutional by a superior court judge in early August.

In Los Angeles, a city-wide ban on dispensaries has been suspended, pending the March 2013 ballot initiative (or the council’s repeal of its measure), after advocates were successful in gaining more than 50,000 signatures to put the issue to a local vote.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
Rancho Mirage medical marijuana dispensary ruling vague, by Blake Herzog The Desert Sun

More Blog Entries:
Advocates Seek Signatures to Suspend, Repeal L.A. Pot Shop Ban, Aug. 21, 2012, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog