Long Beach marijuana collectives fighting zoning and permit violations

<strong>Herbal Solutions is one of 22 marijuana dispensaries/collectives that won the lottery last year. It is located at 1581 W. Wardlow Rd. in Long Beach</strong>

Athena Mekis
Staff Writer

Now that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Laura Laesecke has ruled that Long Beach has the authority to criminally enforce its medical marijuana ordinance, City Prosecutor Douglas Haubert can proceed legally against five Long Beach marijuana collectives who have zoning and permit violations.  
“These operators know they will have to close down, they are just holding on to make money for as long as possible,” Haubert said.
The Laesecke ruling comes after Judge Anthony J. Mohr of the Los Angeles Superior Court invalidated Los Angeles’s marijuana ordinance in December 2010 because key portions were ruled unconstitutional. In addition, 26 Long Beach collectives passed the lottery last year.
Attorney Charles Farano is representing the 14 defendants.
He defended the Los Angeles ruling by saying that criminalizing collectives is illegal.
“Every collective I represent is run according to the state attorney general guidelines,” Farano said. “They are extremely fastidious.”
Farano notes several problems with the decision to prosecute the marijuana collectives he is representing. Two of the collectives in violation were in existence before the ordinance was adopted. According to Farano, they had business licenses and were “grandfathered in.” In addition, many of the defendants are employees or volunteers rather than collective owners or managers.
“Each person being criminally prosecuted was caught in the operation of a dispensary,” Haubert argued.
Landlords are also being criminally prosecuted or fined because they are liable for how their property is used.
“Many illegal operations have already been shut down by landlords,” Haubert said. The City has put pressure on landlords to evict collectives by locking out tenants and shutting off electricity.
Attorney Farano is hoping that the court will delay the cases until the Pack et al. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County case, which debates federal preemption, is decided. Federal law states that the sale and possession of marijuana is illegal while California law has deemed it legal.
According to Assistant City Attorney Michael Mais, the Pack et al. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County case has been delayed until September so people can comment on the ordinance.
There has been no word on the likelihood of delaying the Long Beach case.
Long Beach’s marijuana ordinance may be viewed under the Long Beach Municipal Code Chapter 5.87 under Particular Business Regulations (municicode.com/library/library.aspx).


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