Pubdate: Tue, 27 Apr 2010
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Orange County Register
Author: Erika I. Ritchie
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


SANTA ANA - A federal court judge on Monday said he will consider 
testimony on behalf of four Orange County medical marijuana patients 
who claim the Americans with Disabilities Act gives them the right to 
access medical marijuana dispensaries and who are seeking to prevent 
the closure of dispensaries in Lake Forest and Costa Mesa.

"This is a very important matter," U.S. District Judge Andrew 
Guilford said at the start of a hearing on a lawsuit filed by Marla 
James, Wayne Washington, James Armantrout and Charles Daniel DeJong. 
"It seems to me an inquiry begins and ends on statutory interpretation."

Guilford had issued a tentative ruling prior to the hearing on Monday 
siding with the two cities, which want to shut down all dispensaries, 
saying federal law does not permit the use of medical marijuana. He 
is expected to issue a final ruling Tuesday.

The lawsuit the cities' attempts to close medical marijuana 
dispensaries violates the patients' right to access.

The four are asking the court to temporarily prevent the cities from 
taking any further action against collectives; bar the cities from 
violating the rights of qualified people under the ADA; award damages 
for past actions in violation of the ADA; and award attorneys' fees.

"I'm feeling positive," said Matthew Pappas, a Mission Viejo attorney 
who represents the patients. "It's time for people to recognize that 
folks are disabled and have the right to use this. It's been 
recognized in Washington, D.C. In December 2009, Congress allowed the 
use of medical marijuana, the transportation and distribution in that city."

Jeffrey Dunn, representing Lake Forest, and Jim Touchstone, deputy 
city attorney for Costa Mesa, are hopeful Guilford will stick with 
his tentative decision.

"It's unequivocally clear federal law does not support the use of 
marijuana except for a limited FDA supervised study," Touchstone said.

The hearing was attended by James, 49, from Huntington Beach and 
Armantrout, 62, from Costa Mesa. Both are in wheelchairs and said 
they use marijuana regularly to control chronic pain and to aid in sleeping.

James said financial gain from the lawsuit is not the group's intent. 
Rather, she and others hope Lake Forest and Costa Mesa will find a 
way to regulate the dispensaries.

"I've used marijuana for a good eight years after the hospital got me 
addicted to OxyContin," said James, who lost her leg as a result of 
flesh-eating bacteria. She also has rheumatoid arthritis and is 
legally blind. "With OxyContin, I was out of pain but couldn't think. 
With cannabis I can take as much as I need and be relieved instantly. 
I can think with cannabis."

In September, Lake Forest sued 35 people in the city, including 
medical marijuana dispensary owners and retail landowners who rented 
space to them. Since then, some of the collectives have shut down, 
including one that was raided by the Orange County Sheriff's 
Department. The city is involved in several lawsuits targeting 
clusters of marijuana collectives based on their locations and ownership.

Eleven dispensaries still operate in the city, including one that 
opened in January. Ten have shut down after being sued by the city, 
or in some cases, under pressure from their landlords.

Now city officials are waiting to hear a judge's decision on their 
request for a preliminary injunction to shut down the remaining dispensaries.

According to Touchstone, there are about 10 to 15 dispensaries that 
are illegally operating in Costa Mesa. In 2005, the city put a zoning 
ordinance in place prohibiting them in the city.

In February, Costa Mesa police began cracking down on dispensaries 
operating illegally in the city under the guise of wellness centers 
or businesses offering holistic medicine.

The city's police and code enforcement officers have given out 
48-hour cease-and-desist letters to shops, along with arresting some 
shop owners for marijuana sales and possession. 
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