Pubdate: Mon, 08 Aug 2011
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2011 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: Alicia Robinson, The Press-Enterprise


An attorney for four medical marijuana dispensaries in Riverside has
filed several lawsuits to pre-empt any city attempts to close the facilities.

It's similar to the strategy Riverside City Attorney Greg Priamos has
been using against dispensaries for more than a year. He's been filing
requests for injunctions to ask judges to shutter dispensaries, on the
grounds that city zoning bans them.

James DeAguilera, a former Loma Linda planning director and attorney
who represents more than a dozen Inland dispensaries, said last week
that he requested injunctions to block Riverside from enforcing the
zoning code against his clients.

Such lawsuits against the city have been rare, although Priamos said
he has filed 15 suits against dispensaries to date. Some facilities
have opted to close after receiving cease-and-desist letters, some
have closed when the city filed a lawsuit, and others remain open,
according to Priamos.

"The city believes that it has the lawful right to control land uses
within its jurisdiction and that would include a ban on dispensaries,"
Priamos said.

DeAguilera contends that recent state appeals court decisions in two
Colton cases suggest cities can't declare dispensaries a nuisance
simply because they've passed zoning laws to ban them.

"We don't think these (zoning) laws are legal," he said.
"(Riverside's) ordinance is illegal, so we're asking to court to
enjoin them from enforcing an illegal ordinance."

DeAguilera filed suits on behalf of Iverson Caregiving, Wellness Pain
and Management Center and The Closet Patient Care. He also represents
Greenhouse Care Group, which the city filed a suit against in
December; DeAguilera has filed a cross-complaint in that case.

"I'm not just doing this in Riverside. I'm doing this in other cities
as well," DeAguilera said. He also represents dispensaries in Colton,
Moreno Valley, Fontana, Rialto, San Jacinto, Bloomington, Hesperia,
Victorville and Crestline.

None of the facilities he represents have closed their doors,
regardless of any legal challenges, he said.

"We're not just thumbing our nose at the law," DeAguilera said. "We're
saying we don't think this law is constitutional and we're going to
question it."

Priamos said the city is preparing oral arguments on its test case,
the injunction request it filed against the Inland Empire Patients
Health and Wellness Center. The injunction was granted in November but
was stayed while the medical marijuana collective appealed.

But even an appeals court ruling likely won't end that

"I think we all acknowledge that at some point the California Supreme
Court will intervene and set the law for the state," Priamos said.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.