Legal move by Inland town targets medical pot facility

January 29, 2007

Laura Rico, Press-Enterprise (CA)

NORCO - The city has asked a judge to immediately close a medical marijuana dispensary in Old Town.

The city's legal counsel contends the dispensary, Collective Solution, operates in the city illegally, and he filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in Riverside County Superior Court last week.

"A marijuana dispensary is inconsistent with the city of Norco's values and those of the community," City Manager Jeff Allred said.

The city's action is the latest legal move by an Inland Empire city against medical marijuana dispensaries.

Cities have cited conflicting state and federal laws as the chief reason they have moved to ban collectives, which came about after California voters approved the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, allowing those with a doctor's recommendation to obtain medicinal marijuana.

A court hearing is set for March 1, in which Norco will await a ruling from the judge on the preliminary injunction, said the city's attorney, William Litvak.

Litvak cited the city's moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and the dispensary's lack of proper permits as the main grounds for a preliminary injunction.

Dispensary owner Ken Andersen said he expected the city to take legal action.

"It is easier for them to ban it than deal with it," he said.

Andersen said he hoped the city would work with medical marijuana dispensaries and regulate the businesses.

He said Tuesday that he plans to meet with his attorneys today to discuss possible legal filings. Until the injunction hearing, Andersen plans to continue operating the collective.

Collective Solution opened in early December along a stretch of Sixth Street best known for animal feed stores and horse trails. The marijuana collective treats about 100 patients a week, Andersen said.

While the city is taking a legal step toward shutting down the dispensary, some in the community have taken the issue to the streets.

On Saturday, a handful of protesters stood outside the dispensary, displaying signs with such slogans as "Out drug dealers" and "Prayer not Pot."

Norco resident Lois Loock, 79, led the 10-person protest outside Collective Solution.

Loock is no stranger to protests, having voiced her disapproval of a tattoo parlor operating at the same Sixth Street location, as well as a fortune-teller and The Maverick steakhouse.

One of her signs was even recycled from a Maverick protest, with an anti-marijuana phrase in front, and an anti-biker phrase in the back.

"When something incites me, I'm like a volcano," she said, while sitting in her wheelchair and waving to passing cars.

Others held up signs supporting the dispensary. A young woman stepped out of Collective Solution and placed a sign along the fence, reading "Protesting Sick People is Sick"

Staff writers Melanie Johnson and Steve Fetbrandt contributed to this report.

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



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