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Medical Marijuana Dispensary Appeals Business License Revocation

Ganjarden

Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
The operator of a local medical marijuana dispensary plans to appeal the revocation of her business license to the Clearlake City Council at its Thursday night meeting.

The council will meet at 6 p.m. at Clearlake City Hall, 14050 Olympic Drive.

Liz Byrd, owner of Lakeside Herbal Solutions on Mullen Avenue says she'll be at Thursday night's meeting to ask that the council overturn the decision by city staff to pull her business license because she is selling medical marijuana.

Byrd, whose dispensary opened in late October, became involved with medical marijuana after she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia seven years ago. She says the medicinal use of marijuana has allowed her to stop using all of her other drugs.

A businesswoman who formerly owned the consignment shop From You to Me, Byrd said she wanted to create a comfortable, professional setting for medical marijuana patients to get their medicine, so she set about opening Lakeside Herbal Solutions, which resembles a doctor's office.

Even before she opened her doors she had patients ready to seek her services, including one who drives to Clearlake twice a month from Sacramento. Byrd said 35 percent of her clients are terminally ill cancer patients.

But since she opened city officials have alleged that Byrd got her license surreptitiously, without listing on her business license application her intention to sell medical marijuana.

Earlier this year, a temporary citywide moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits expired, said Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain.

The moratorium was passed the previous year, said McClain, in the hope that a federal court would come to a consensus as to who ultimately has jurisdiction — federal, state or local agencies — on medical marijuana, which has become a thorny issue for law enforcement due to the conflict between state and federal law.

The council decided that existing medical dispensaries — such as D&M Compassion Center — would be allowed to continue operating, but new dispensaries wouldn't be permitted, McClain said.

In the mean time, that hoped-for clarity from the courts didn't come, and when the moratorium came up earlier this year, the council let it expire, said McClain. Instead, they decided that their current ordinance — which states that the city can't issue a business license for any activity that violates local, state or federal law — would suffice.

Byrd opened the fourth week of October, and a few weeks later Dave Moses addressed the City Council during the public comment period of its Nov. 13 meeting.

He accused the city of being unfair in not granting him a business license for a medical marijuana dispensary he wanted to open. He said he had filled out the business license application and returned it to the city, only to be told he needed to fill out a new version of the form that had a new box added to it that asked, "Is any current or future activity of this business in violation of ANY federal, state or local laws, regulations or rules?"

Moses — whose brother Ken Estes had his Holistic Solutions dispensary raided in May by local and federal authorities — accused Byrd's dispensary of not having a proper business license.

McClain replied to Moses at that time that the city knew about Byrd's dispensary and was taking steps to begin the revocation process. He had already sent a memo to city Finance Director Michael Vivrette, whose responsibility it is to revoke business licenses.

About the time Moses lodged his protest with the council, Vivrette had prepared a letter to Byrd about the the city's plans to revoke her license to operate, McClain told Lake County News.

McClain said his department verified that Byrd was selling medical marijuana and warned her about it. Byrd said McClain and a lieutenant came to visit her a few days before her opening.

Byrd said she was completely upfront with city staff when she applied for her business license earlier this year. "The city knew exactly what my intentions were because I never lied to anybody."

She said she spoke to three city employees, including McClain, to make sure she had done everything correctly.

Byrd also said that one city staff member told her not to reference medical marijuana in her business description, but to instead say "holistic" when describing her services. "What did they think holistic meant?"

Byrd said all the city would have had to do was say "no" and she wouldn't have moved forward with opening.

"I've done nothing but be completely, utterly and brutally honest with everybody," she said.

McClain and city officials deny that any staff member instructed Byrd on filling out the form by not accurately describing her business. He told the council at the Nov. 13 meeting that an internal investigation by a department head determined Byrd's allegation wasn't true.

In his report to the council for the Thursday meeting, McClain said he's tried to reconcile "the differing opinions of events leading up to the issuance of a business license to Liz Byrd, but staff and Liz Byrd remember the event happening differently."

Byrd says she's willing to take a lie detector test to prove her case. "Say anything but don't call me a liar," she said, asserting that the city is protecting itself at her expense.

She said she's spoken to Americans for Safe Access and other groups that advocate for medical marijuana to get guidance on her situation. When she attends the council meeting she'll be accompanied by supporters, fellow business owners and attorney Bill McPike, who specializes in medical marijuana cases.

McPike attended the Nov. 13 meeting with Moses, warning the council that there has been no court decision by state or US district courts, or even by the US Supreme Court, that has overturned California's medical marijuana laws, which spring from 1996's Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act.

He added that Attorney General Jerry Brown's medical marijuana enforcement guidelines for local and state law enforcement agencies, issued in August, say they have no duty to enforce federal law.

McClain's report to the council explains that the city faces a potential lawsuit from Byrd if they turn her appeal down; if it changes its policies to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, the city could be in violation of state and federal laws.

If the council doesn't grant Byrd's appeal, McClain told Lake County News that his department would begin citing her for operating without a business license.

Byrd said she may sue if she starts getting hit by fines. "If it needs to go to battle, I think that we're prepares to do that," she said, adding that filing a lawsuit isn't what she wants to do.

"I'm just fed up with it, and I just want it resolved, and I don't want it resolved that our patients are going to suffer," she said.


News Hawk- Ganjarden 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: Lake County News
Author: Elizabeth Larson
Contact: Lake County News
Copyright: 2008 Lake County News
Website: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Appeals Business License Revocation
 
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