Pubdate: Tue, 12 Apr 2011
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
Copyright: 2011 Swift Communications
Author: Adam Jensen
Bookmark: (California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)

Moratorium No More?


SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - After more than a year of back and forth 
with the city, the owner of a medical marijuana collective in South 
Lake Tahoe is ready to let the courts decide who can legally provide 
cannabis at the South Shore.

On Monday, Mountain Collective owner Chris Ziegler filed suit against 
South Lake Tahoe over a November 2009 emergency moratorium on new 
medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

The suit challenges the legality of the moratorium as well as how it 
was applied to Mountain Collective.

Ziegler contends the collective should have been granted an exemption 
to the moratorium along with three medical marijuana dispensaries the 
city allowed to continue operating after determining they were 
"established operations."

"The City's actions have been arbitrary and capricious, and have 
operated to discriminate against Mountain Collective as compared to 
other Collectives with which it is similarly situated," said 
Jacqueline Mittelstadt, attorney for Mountain Collective, in the 
suit. Mittelstadt previously served as South Lake Tahoe's city attorney.

In the suit, Mittelstadt also argues Mountain Collective met all of 
the requirements to be considered an "established operation" that 
"were in its control" and the city failed to follow proper legal 
procedure during an appeal by Ziegler.

During a Tuesday interview, Ziegler said he began operation of the 
medical marijuana collective out of his Bijou area home in the summer 
of 2009, and said he has made repeated efforts to work with the city 
to do so legally.

He said the city has consistently delayed his attempts to work within 
a legal framework and has never given him a clear answer about 
whether he could operate.

"We could really do this right, and that's what's frustrating," 
Ziegler said Tuesday.

City officials told Ziegler he would face legal action if he opened a 
collective in South Lake Tahoe shortly before establishing the 
moratorium, Mittelstadt said in the suit.

"Mere months later, the City adopted an ordinance which 'recognized' 
collectives that had been, according to the City, operating 
illegally," Mittelstadt said. "But, because Mountain Collective 
actually heeded the City's threats and did not engage in full scale 
operations, the City refused to similarly recognize it. Apparently it 
was not operating 'illegally enough' or 'established enough' to be 
recognized under the new Moratorium. Application of the law has been 
inconsistent and arbitrary at best, discriminatory at worst."

City spokeswoman Nancy Kerry said the city has not yet seen the suit 
and declined comment Tuesday.

City officials have previously said Mountain Collective did meet the 
city's requirements to be exempt from the moratorium.

Former Assistant City Manager Rick Angelocci denied Ziegler's initial 
application for an exemption in January 2009. Former City Manager 
David Jinkens later upheld Angelocci's decision following an appeal by Ziegler.

A July 16 letter from City Attorney Patrick Enright to then City 
Manager David Jinkens questions whether Ziegler was operating a 
dispensary prior to a Nov. 1, 2009 deadline for an exemption required 
by the moratorium.

In October, Angelocci said Ziegler's application for an exemption was 
denied because Ziegler did not have an active permit with the city 
and was operating the collective out of his home.

The collective has been "in limbo" during struggles with the city, 
Ziegler said.

He envisions Mountain Collective becoming an the anchor tenant in an 
"Eco Center" located at the former Sunshine Inn building. 
Environmentally friendly hotel rooms, electric bike rentals and 
community produce gardens are also planned for the site, Ziegler said.  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake