Judge orders closing marijuana dispensary in Norco

February 28, 2007

Laura Rico, Press Enterprise

RIVERSIDE - A Riverside County Superior Court judge Thursday ordered the immediate closure of a medical marijuana dispensary operating in the city of Norco.

Judge Gloria Connor Trask granted a preliminary injunction to the city, shutting down Collective Solutions, which had been operating on Sixth Street since December.

Trask's ruling supported the city's claim that the collective broke the law by operating without a license and violating the zoning code.

William Litvak, attorney for the city, said the judge's ruling affirmed the city's right to enforce its own laws.

"The other side tried to make this an issue of marijuana when in reality the issue is self-determination by a municipality regarding what is appropriate for the community," he said.

Collective Solutions attorney Stewart Richlin said he was disappointed with the judge's ruling and said it was a blow for "safe access" to medicinal marijuana by patients suffering from a variety of ailments.

The owners of Collective Solutions and about a dozen patients and supporters gathered outside the courtroom after the decision was read.

Chris Yap, co-owner of the collective, described the business owners as 40-something professionals without criminal records.

"It's terribly, terribly unfair and very unjust," he said of the decision. "We did try to do things the right way and we did ask proper questions."

Yap and the collective owners argued that a medical marijuana dispensary was a proper land use in the commercial zone, which allows for pharmacies and veterinary clinics.

Richlin faulted the city for backdating its moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and claimed the city violated state law by not allowing access to medicinal marijuana.

California voters passed Prop. 215 in 1996 to decriminalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The sale and use of marijuana is illegal under federal law.

The interpretation of state and federal laws did not figure into the judge's decision, however.

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