Marijuana outlet, Norco squaring off

December 28, 2006

Laura Rico, Press-Enterprise (CA)

NORCO - Owners of a medical marijuana collective have vowed to keep the dispensary open despite a legal challenge from the city.

Collective Solution opened Dec. 1 on a stretch of Sixth Street known for veterinary clinics and animal feed stores. Owner Ken Andersen said he and his partners opened the dispensary after a 45-day moratorium on the businesses ended.

"When the moratorium expired, we rented this building, applied for a business license and started signing up patients," Andersen said.

City Manager Jeff Allred said Norco denied Andersen's application for a business license on the grounds that a medical marijuana dispensary violated land-use provisions for the area.

"Basically, they thumbed their noses at the city of Norco and opened it anyway," he said.

The city has since sent the collective a cease-and-desist order.

Andersen and his partners say they hope to work with city officials to keep the collective open in the community.

"We have every intention to address the council in a respectful manner," Andersen said. "We are putting together our presentation to the city."

Andersen said the group has consulted with lawyers who specialize in land-use issues related to medical marijuana.

State and federal laws differ on the legality of the use and distribution of medical marijuana, complicating the issue for local governments.

In October, Riverside County supervisors approved a ban on marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas, joining San Bernardino, Merced and San Diego in challenging California's medical marijuana laws.

On Dec. 13 a Riverside County Superior Court ruling granted the city of Corona a preliminary injunction needed to close a medical marijuana dispensary that had opened in the city in May. The collective remains open pending an appeal.

California voters passed Prop. 215 in 1996 to decriminalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Andersen and his partners say the collective provides a safe place for ailing patients to obtain medical marijuana.

"The alternative to safe access is to do it the illicit way, that is your back alleys and everything else," Andersen said. "Can you imagine sending your grandma out to who knows where?"

Reach Laura Rico at 951-893-2107 or lrico@PE.com



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