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Upland Medical Marijuana Cases May Hinge On Anaheim Case


Nug of the Month: Aug 2008
Lawyers on both sides of the city's case against two medical marijuana cooperatives are holding their breath for a potentially game-changing ruling in an Anaheim case.

A three-year-long case against Anaheim by Qualified Patients Association could come to an end by Monday, setting a precedent by which judges may follow in future cases in the state.

Qualified Patients, an Anaheim-based medical marijuana dispensary sued the city in 2007, when the city was attempting to implement an ordinance banning all medical marijuana dispensaries.

Upland city officials are attempting to shut down G3 Holistic in the 1700 block of West Foothill Boulevard and Upland Herbal Patient Co-op in the 900 block of North Central Avenue.

City zoning rules prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries.

"There doesn't really appear to be any legal reason the city shouldn't continue to win and since Upland's formal ordinance is very similar to Anaheim's - if they win, we win," said Upland City Attorney William Curley.

Upland has filed an injunction against the cooperatives aiming to shut them down before the trial. A hearing was held Tuesday for one of the cooperatives. Roger Jon Diamond, an attorney representing G3 and UHPC, requested the hearing be pushed until after the Anaheim ruling.

The hearing for the second cooperative was to be held Wednesday, but both judges agreed to wait until Aug. 13.

"I believe the cases are basically the same or at least similar enough that judge in Rancho would want to hear what the state appellate court has to say," said Diamond.

After Qualified Patients filed its lawsuit, the city was granted a demur, terminating the lawsuit. Qualified Patients appealed the decision in the Court of Appeals in Santa Ana.

The case was argued in the Court of Appeals in September and a ruling would have come 90 days later, but the court required further time to look over the case. A ruling is expected by Monday, which will be 90 days after the continuance.

"If the appellate court strikes down the Anaheim ordinance it will create a whole new playing field. It will change the medical marijuana landscape," said Anthony Curiale, the lawyer representing Qualified Patients in Anaheim.

Should Anaheim prevail, Curiale believes it will void the state's compassionate use act, which was approved by voters in 1996 to de-criminalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

"That essentially means cities regardless of what state law says, will be able to completely ban medical marijuana in their cities," he said.

State law permits the operation of medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives, which are required to follow a set of guidelines by the Attorney General's Office.

The use of medical marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, and some cities chose to side with the feds by banning dispensaries.

The outcome of the case could determine if the state's law could pre-empt all cities' bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, said Moses Johnson, Anaheim city attorney.

"It could be far reaching, but we're not going to know until we see it. It's a very complicated issue," Johnson said. The Court of Appeal had it for a long time and everybody's just anxiously awaiting for a ruling."

Medical marijuana patients filled the Upland City Hall council chambers Monday in support of the cooperatives.

Several members shared their personal stories and expressed their concerns over the possibly of their clubs being shut down.

Aaron Sandusky, president of G3 Holistic also spoke. He said 690 of his members live in Upland and that the cooperative has paid more than $80,000 in taxes since they opened in November.

"We've done a really good job," Sandusky said. "We've taken the Attorney General's guidelines and tightened them up even more. We make great strides in making sure that what we're doing is above board."

However, the council does not believe the majority of Upland residents would support the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

"It's kind of difficult because on one hand you feel for them and want to see them helped, on the other hand is helping them going to create a situation for people in our community which would not be a benefit to our children and would not be a benefit in other ways?" said Councilman Ken Willis.

Several Inland Empire cities - including Fontana, Claremont, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Chino, Chino Hills, Ontario, Montclair, San Bernardino, Yucaipa, Rialto and Redlands - also prohibit dispensaries as a possible land use.

Jan Werner, an operator of the Inland Empire Patients Group in Bloomington, hit several road blocks before opening a year ago.

Warner settled on the unincorporated town because so many cities had bans on dispensaries.

"It's really unfortunate that through the whole state, very few counties and very few cities have authorized the operation of the facilities," he said.

NewsHawk: Ganjarden: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: San Bernardino County Sun
Author: Sandra Emerson
Contact: San Bernardino County Sun
Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Website: Upland medical marijuana cases may hinge on Anaheim case
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