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UPDATE: County Threatens To Sue Marijuana Dispensaries

Riverside County turns up the heat on medical marijuana.

UPDATE 5:11 p.m.: The County of Riverside is cracking down on medical marijuana.

In closed session today, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors authorized County Counsel to initiate litigation against all medical marijuana dispensaries operating illegally in Riverside County.

“The Board of Supervisors today authorized its attorneys to sue any marijuana dispensary in the unincorporated county area, or the owner of any property where a dispensary conducts business, unless the operator or property owner voluntarily and immediately ceases operation,” according to a news release from the county Tuesday afternoon.

The release stated that there are at least 36 dispensaries “operating illegally within unincorporated Riverside County.”

In 2006, Riverside County amended its zoning ordinance when it adopted a ban on marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated county area.

Since that time, the county has largely cracked down on dispensaries from a land-use approach. In August, Greg Flannery, code division manager for the county, told Patch that out of 11 pot dispensaries found to be operating in Lakeland Village, 10 had been handed cease and desist orders by code enforcement.

Failing to follow a cease and desist order can be expensive, Flannery said in August: The options are a court challenge, or stay open and pay the consequences of additional citations that can cost a property owner $500 to $1,000 a day.

Today’s news confirmed that county officials will still use code-enforcement powers, but costly lawsuits are now an added threat.

“County officials also will seek to recover all administrative and legal costs unless dispensary operators or property owners immediately and voluntarily cease dispensary operations,” today’s news release stated.

The news release also warned that property owners who lease to suspected medical marijuana operators may be in jeopardy.

“If businesses are operating out of leased buildings, federal officials also might be able to seize the property, including buildings,” the release stated.

Today’s news from the county follows an Oct. 7 announcement made by statewide.

However, that news was quickly followed

As legal tangles continue elsewhere, here at home the county could run up a large taxpayer bill.

“Some of them (dispensaries) are heavily lawyered up,” Flannery He said these types of lawsuits cost upward of $150,000 to defend and, with uncertainty surrounding medical marijuana bans, there is no guarantee the county can prevail.

However, his words came before a from the Fourth District Court, which ruled that nothing in the 1996 Compassionate Use Act or the Medical Marijuana Program Act pre-empts local jurisdictions from banning the facilities.

Last month's court ruling buoyed today's decision, according to today's county news release.

Medical marijuana advocate Lanny Swerdlow, who heads up THCF Medical Clinic in Riverside, said he is not surprised by today's decision given last month's court ruling. He said pressure to crack down on marijuana is not coming from residents but rather law enforcement.

"Law enforcement has them (government leaders) chomping at the bit," he said. "No one else is agitating them to do this. The cops are behind this."

He questions where legitimate patients who really benefit from marijuana will get the drug now.

"The criminals," he answered.

Joe Grumbine lives in unincorporated area just east of Lake Elsinore. He also heads the medical marijuana advocacy group The Human Solution and is currently embroiled in a lawsuit in Long Beach Superior Court. He is being tried on marijuana possession and sales charges after two medical marijuana cooperatives he operated in Long Beach and Garden Grove were raided in December 2009.

As of December 5, he said he has made 28 court appearances in the case. He has pleaded not guilty and is undergoing a jury trial.

“This case will last longer than most violent crime cases, including murder,” he writes on his website. “Just to reiterate, this is all over the charge of selling a plant to qualified patients.”

Tuesday afternoon medical marijuana advocate and Lake Elsinore resident Wayne Williams had not heard the news about the county’s decision. He owns a medical marijuana collective in unincorporated area just outside Lake Elsinore, the Compassionate & Wellness Center Cooperative, and is the founder of We The People, an advocacy group fighting to keep medical marijuana accessible.

Last month he kicked off a restaurant to get a medical marijuana initiative on the 2012 ballot for Lake Elsinore.

Despite today’s news, he said his group still plans to move ahead.

“The initiative is still going forward,” he said. “It will be an all out campaign.”

Click here to read about California's medical marjuana laws.

 

ORIGINAL POST: In closed session today, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors authorized County Counsel to initiate litigation against all medical marijuana dispensaries operating illegally in Riverside County.

The news follows an Oct. 7 announcement made by statewide.

However, that news was quickly followed

Click here to read about California's medical marjuana laws.

While word from the county is pending today, Patch has previously reported that fees to litigate marijuana cases can be costly.

“Some of them (dispensaries) are heavily lawyered up,” Greg Flannery, code division manager for the county, He said these types of lawsuits cost upward of $150,000 to defend and, with uncertainty surrounding medical marijuana bans, there is no guarantee the county can prevail.

However, his words came before a from the Fourth District Court, which ruled that nothing in the 1996 Compassionate Use Act or the Medical Marijuana Program Act pre-empts local jurisdictions from banning the facilities.

More information is expected to be released by the county this afternoon.

Josh Ovalteen January 05, 2012 at 12:31 AM
We already got the 12,000 signatures. I went to city council meetings for 3 years it did nothing. I even gave the entire council Education packets on the laws and rights concerning this...The DA had no interest even though what i gave her was thorough....She did not have a proper understanding of the Law and even admitted to ignorance at several meeting which i filmed. He we even held a town hall meeting and invited the world's leading experts which included a judge and court qualified experts but the council members did not show up even though it was mostly for their benefit. You can't help those whom don't want it. They are set in their ways. Apparently the Feds are too. : ) Godbless
justme January 05, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Unfortunately there will always be those who abuse a right and those who will forever judge and criticize others. People will NEVER understand what you are going through until they themselves have encountered such a disease. My husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis back in 2005 and it opened our eyes to so many more things than we ever imagined. I hope you find a way to fulfill your prescription. I know how important it is. My husband could get an rx if he wanted to but he has always told his neuro no. He doesn't want to become addicted/dependent on something that can go away so easily. So he takes on his exacerbations head on with some suppliments and other meds he has for help. Be well Mr. Ovalteen
Josh Ovalteen January 05, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Prop 215 is here to stay. It was voted in by initiative. I was under the impression that this process represented the freedoms protected by our constitution. The people have spoken. Studies and Facts have been ignored. The Fact is that Obama and Holder set forth guidelines and it says in print that MMJ patients that have a dr. recommendation to use cannabis have the right to do so and their is no sense in wasting federal funds on raiding and going after legit patients or their collectives. This was Holder's words not mine.
Stormy January 07, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Josh: I am so sorry to hear about your illnesses but I do have a question for you, not to be rude but where did you get your medical MJ prior to the last year or so before all of the dispensaries opened in Lakeland Village? From your posting I would assume that you have had your illnesses for quite some time, I know others that use medical mj for help with their illnesses and surprisingly not a one of them obtained it from the dispensaries on Grand.
Stormy January 07, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Jam I couldn't of said it better myself, I think at $300.00 an ounce they are preying on the sick and laughing all the way to the bank........this is just wrong in so many ways!!!!!!!!!!

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