Banned Marijuana Dispensary Reopens

By JOHN F. HILL, published on The Press-Enterprise

The dispensary owners argue that the cities, which use zoning codes to block medical marijuana facilities, are violating the Compassionate Use Act, the 1996 law allowing marijuana for medical use.

A medical marijuana collective engaged in a legal battle against Wildomar re-opened its storefront location Monday in defiance of a citywide ban on dispensaries.

The move by the Wildomar Patients Compassionate Group comes a week after the collective filed a legal petition seeking to block the city from enforcing its ban.

General Manager William Sump said the group believes Wildomar’s ban violates state law, which allows medical marijuana patients access to medication.

“I will only operate until a judge tells us not to,” Sump said.

Wildomar City Manager Frank Oviedo said the city would likely seek a court order forcing the dispensary to shut down.

“We’re going to enforce the city’s ordinance,” Oviedo said. “There is no other option. We can’t ignore our own laws.”

CLOSED ONCE BEFORE

The dispensary was open for three days in March, until Wildomar delivered a cease-and-desist order. The group complied and spent the next several months lobbying for a new ordinance that would allow dispensaries but set strict guidelines on their operations. That ordinance failed in a 3-1 City Council vote in September.

The dispensary is on Mission Trail in a tan stucco building, nondescript except for blue awnings and the block letters “WPCG” on the front doors. The windows are barred and security cameras are posted inside and out.

The collective has 26 members who signed up during the facility’s three-day run in March, Sump said. The members will use the storefront dispensary to buy, sell and grow medical marijuana.

Collectives are, by law, nonprofit organizations and not allowed to make money off the sale of marijuana.

Wildomar’s situation is not unusual. Medical marijuana activists are testing dispensary bans in cities across California and the Inland area.

Dispensaries are now operating in Temecula and Lake Elsinore, despite bans.

The dispensary owners argue that the cities, which use zoning codes to block medical marijuana facilities, are violating the Compassionate Use Act, the 1996 law allowing marijuana for medical use.

Riverside, which is seeking court injunctions against seven medical marijuana facilities, was handed a victory last week when a Superior Court judge ruled the city was within its rights to use zoning laws to ban dispensaries.

Sump is also manager of the dispensary in that case, the Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center.

The attorney representing the Riverside dispensary, J. David Nick, has said he will appeal the decision. Nick also represents Wildomar Patients Compassionate Group.

In a phone interview Monday, the attorney said he believes courts ultimately will decide cities have the right to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, but not to block them from opening.

“Under no logic in the world is it consistent (with state law) to have a total ban,” Nick said.

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