Pubdate: Sat, 19 May 2012
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2012 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: Alicia Robinson


As federal authorities have cracked down on Inland medical marijuana 
dispensaries, including recent raids in Murrieta, Temecula and Lake 
Elsinore, one dispensary's supporters have tried an interesting 
gambit to keep it from happening to them.

Attorney J. David Nick is defending Riverside's Inland Empire 
Patients Health and Wellness Center in a lawsuit filed by the city of 
Riverside that is now under review by the state Supreme Court.

In response to Riverside City Attorney Greg Priamos' announcement 
that he and police Chief Sergio Diaz had asked U.S. attorneys to help 
enforce the federal marijuana ban, Nick in March filed a writ asking 
the state Supreme Court to block the city from collaborating with the feds.

Nick said by phone Friday that Priamos and Diaz are seeking federal 
involvement as an end run around the state law allowing medical use 
of marijuana because they don't agree with it. In this way, he said, 
they are "trying to undo the will of the people of the state of California."

"They seem to have thrown down the gauntlet to stop medical marijuana 
no matter what device they may use," he said.

His court filing says that, under the state constitution, California 
officials can't use federal law as an excuse not to enforce a state 
law, unless an appellate court has ruled in agreement on the matter.

Priamos said in a Wednesday phone interview he had never seen such an 
approach before.

"This whole strategy is just absolutely ludicrous," he said. "I don't 
believe that any court would enjoin a local public official from 
notifying federal law enforcement agencies of violations of federal law."

Priamos has talked with federal officials and will continue to, he 
said, but he would not disclose the nature of their discussions. 
Since 2010, when the city began pursuing medical marijuana facilities 
in civil court on the grounds that they violate the zoning code, 35 
to 40 dispensaries have closed and 10 to 15 remain, Priamos said.

On Wednesday afternoon, the state Supreme Court denied the writ, 
which Priamos said he expected. Nick pointed out that the court 
didn't give an opinion with the denial, which he interprets to mean 
the court isn't addressing the merits of the writ and may still be 
watching the larger issue of federal involvement.

Priamos said initial briefs have been filed by both sides in the 
Supreme Court case, which is expected to decide whether local 
governments can ban marijuana dispensaries outright. The court may 
take oral arguments late this year or in early 2013.

The Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness center remains open.
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