Pubdate: Thu, 13 Jun 2013
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2013 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: Alicia Robinson


With Storefront-Style Dispensaries Shuttered, Riverside Seeks to Stop 
Pot Delivery Services

Arranging home delivery of medical marijuana may have been as easy as 
phoning for pizza up to now, but Riverside officials want to put a 
stop to those special deliveries.

Last month the California Supreme Court upheld cities' rights to ban 
storefront marijuana dispensaries, and last week Riverside officials 
announced that all dispensaries they knew of had shut their doors.

But the ban in the city zoning code didn't address mobile 
dispensaries, and that's where Riverside attorneys say operators of 
some now-closed brick and mortar locations have put their efforts 
following the court ruling.

"The studies have shown that the increase (in delivery services) has 
been found to coincide with successful enforcement actions" against 
storefronts, Riverside Deputy City Attorney Neil Okazaki told council 
members Tuesday, June 11, shortly before they approved an emergency 
ban on mobile marijuana dispensaries.

One attorney who represents about 40 Inland-area marijuana 
collectives can attest to that shift. James De Aguilera said 
Wednesday that among his clients, "I think everybody's either gone 
mobile or is in the process of going mobile" since the court upheld 
Riverside's ban.

However, he added, there's "not a word about mobile dispensing" in 
the recent Supreme Court decision, and he doesn't believe Riverside can ban it.

Riverside first banned storefront dispensaries in 2007 and began 
aggressive legal enforcement two years later. Since 2010, a total of 
75 dispensaries in the city have closed, Okazaki told the council - 
but a new frontier of delivery services has opened.

Citing the website, Okazaki said the number of mobile 
dispensaries within 20 miles of Riverside has jumped from more than 
30 last March to more than 50 at the end of May.

A customer who used Green Closet Deliveries commented on 
on June 9: "This was my first time using a delivery service and was 
it as easy as ordering pizza," a comparison Okazaki also made in his 

But delivery drivers have been the targets of armed robberies, 
including one Riverside case in January, Okazaki said, adding, "These 
are issues that are moving from storefronts right into residential 

Several residents said they thought city officials were overstating 
the danger of delivery services.

Pizza drivers and liquor stores get robbed too, so it's unreasonable 
to single out marijuana delivery, Sean Eberhart told the council.

"I don't know if there's a legal channel left for me to access my 
medication," Eberhart said.

Robert Newham, who identified himself as a Vietnam War veteran who 
worked in law enforcement, also urged the council to reconsider.

"I'm not a pothead, I'm not an addict," he said. "I agree those 
dispensaries were ugly, but they're gone now, so you're going to take 
away the only thing we have left."

Citing worries of running afoul of federal drug laws, council members 
voted Tuesday to adopt an emergency ban on mobile marijuana 
dispensaries that took effect immediately.

City officials gave no details at Tuesday's meeting about how the ban 
would be enforced, but Police Chief Sergio Diaz said Wednesday that 
the department likely would take action when mobile services are 
brought to its attention through advertising, for example, and when 
there are victims of a crime.

De Aguilera said he considers the delivery service ban "an overreach" 
by the city and that he will defend his clients if the city takes 
legal action against them. As long as they're following state rules 
that govern medical marijuana collectives, members who grow marijuana 
can legally deliver it to members who need it, he said.

Also, the state vehicle code "preempts the city from interfering with 
deliveries, whether it's Coors (beer) trucks or Godfathers pizza or 
medical marijuana," De Aguilera said.

An employee of Mobile Green Alternatives, a delivery-only service 
that started in 2009 and serves western Riverside and San Bernardino 
counties, suggested the city might have to carry out sting operations 
to be able to catch drivers.

Jon, who declined to give his last name in light of the city's new 
ban, said drivers for his service don't have a sign or logo on their 
cars, largely for their own safety.

If the city asks his service not to deliver in Riverside, it would 
comply, Jon said, but overall "I don't feel like they're really going 
to be able to enforce it."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom