Pubdate: Thu, 09 Feb 2012
Source: Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, CA)
Copyright: 2012 Daily Pilot
Author: Joseph Serna


The city has spent $457,612 on court fees in its court challenges of 
the marijuana clinics.

Costa Mesa City Attorney Tom Duarte asked federal authorities months 
ahead of a January raid to help shutter the marijuana dispensaries 
operating illegally in the city, according to a letter he wrote to 
the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

"In light of your office's recent announcement relating to increased 
enforcement against illegal marijuana cultivation and distribution, 
we therefore seek your office's assistance," Duarte wrote to U.S. 
Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. on Oct. 26. "We believe that by working 
together with the U.S. Department of Justice, we can eradicate these 
illegal businesses from our city."

In the letter, Duarte cited the high legal costs of challenging the clinics.

The city has spent $457,612 on court fees, officials said.

"So far, the city has expended significant resources on these 
lawsuits," Duarte's October letter read. "We intend to move forward 
against illegal facilities throughout the city with increasingly 
aggressive enforcement. In light of the obvious profits that sustain 
these businesses, we anticipate a vigorous defense."

In mid-January, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Costa Mesa 
police searched two dispensary owners' homes and their shops. Federal 
prosecutors sent letters to about three dozen other Costa Mesa 
dispensaries with orders to close up shop or face similar consequences.

Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's Los Angeles office, 
said the city's letter and the raids were not directly connected.

Costa Mesa was already a target, he said, because of the number of 
storefronts here.

Just days before the feds came knocking, Mayor Gary Monahan went on 
KOCI radio's "Cannabis Community" show and declared that he wanted to 
legalize and regulate the city's clinics.

KOCI's station chief shut down "Cannabis Community" minutes before it 
was to air Sunday.

Station officials said they thought the show ended a week earlier 
when the show's host, Robert Martinez, was forced to close his dispensary, too.

Station officials said they felt pressure to silence the 
marijuana-advocacy broadcasts in light of the federal crackdown.

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, local dispensary owners and 
patients chastised the city's approach to medicinal marijuana.

"We've been trying to work with the council and even offered to help 
them with ordinances," said Marla James, president of the Orange 
County chapter of Americans for Safe Access. "They don't want 
anything to do with it."

"Sometimes you just have to stand there and stamp your feet on the 
ground and say I believe in something," said Joan Schumann-Levine, a 
63-year-old Costa Mesa resident and medicinal marijuana user. "It's a 
revenue opportunity. Get a clue, guys!"

Costa Mesa is embroiled in litigation with five dispensaries, 
including one involving James at the federal appeals court level.
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