Pacheco pot store ordered to close

January 15, 2007

Ryan Huff, Contra Costa Times

A Pacheco medical marijuana dispensary must shut down because it has operated for the past year without a proper zoning permit and stands in violation of the Contra Costa's moratorium on such facilities, county supervisors ruled today.

The supervisors voted unanimously after a contentious two-hour hearing that saw more than a dozen medical marijuana users speak out to save the Maricare shop, one of three in the county.

Maricare's attorney, however, promised to appeal the county's decision to Superior Court. Business owner Demetrio Ramirez said he never sought a land-use permit because it would prevent or delay him from opening his dispensary.

"Throughout California, they use that as a reason to throw up red flags," he said after the hearing. "They would hold emergency hearings and stop me."

The Board of Supervisors passed a moratorium in April preventing new medical marijuana facilities from opening in unincorporated areas of the county. Furthermore, county officials said, Maricare never applied for a use permit.

"It doesn't matter if this is marijuana, rice, beans or a widget," said Carlos Baltodano, county building inspection director. "The fact is they need a land-use permit."

Ramirez moved his business from Concord last year after the City Council passed a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Two sanctioned medical marijuana businesses -- in Richmond and El Sobrante -- remain in Contra Costa County. Others East Bay facilities are located in Berkeley and Oakland.

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