Medical marijuana center seeks hearing

December 04, 2006

Mike Martinez, Tri-Valley Herald

The medical marijuana dispensary that was ordered to close by the city of Tracy has filed a request for an administrative hearing and vowed to continue operating.

Oakland attorney James Anthony said the Valley Wellness Center is a legal medical cannabis collective and would remain open under the threat of fines and citations.

"It causes no harm, and it provides a beneficial community service on a nonprofit basis," Anthony wrote in an e-mail. "The city's legal position -- that anything not explicitly permitted is therefore prohibited -- is dubious and infringes on constitutionally protected property rights."

Although there is nothing in the city code specifically banning medical marijuana dispensaries, there's also nothing that allows for it. Last month, the collective was ordered by city code enforcement officers to "discontinue the non-listed use of distributing medical marijuana" in Tracy by Dec. 5.

City officials contend the group misrepresented itself on its business license, saying activity would be "retail sales conducted by a non-profit corporation."

"It would have surprised me not to (file an appeal), but it doesn't surprise me," Bill Sartor, Tracy's assistant city attorney, said. "We'll schedule a hearing and go from there."

Sartor maintained his position that the sale of medical marijuana isn't a listed use under the city code. He said the storefront never should have opened and the city would prefer it shuts down because it is out of compliance.

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215 -- the Compassionate Use Act -- providing the seriously ill with the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes.

The San Joaquin County District Attorney's office interprets the retail sale of marijuana, even those who have a doctor's recommendation, as illegal.

Reach Mike Martinez of the Tri-Valley Herald at 209-832-3947 or mmartinez@trivalleyherald.com



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