Cannabis club must shut immediately, judge rules

March 15, 2007

Ryan Huff, Contra Costa Times

A Pacheco medical marijuana dispensary that has remained open despite a county order to close must stop selling cannabis immediately, Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga ruled Thursday.

If the Maricare shop does not voluntarily close in the coming days, the county would likely seek a warrant to shut down the property at 127 Aspen Drive.

The attorney for Maricare owner Demetrio Ramirez said the dispensary will be shut down by next week.

"Demetrio is going to reflect on what to do in light of what's happened," said San Francisco attorney Jim Hammer. "Demetrio isn't left with many options at this point. He simply wanted to stay open as he appealed the county's decision."

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

The county Board of Supervisors in January voted unanimously to close his Pacheco shop because it doesn't have a proper zoning permit and violates Contra Costa's moratorium on such facilities. That order to move out was effective March 8.

Residents living near the dispensary have complained about people smoking marijuana in the parking lot and traffic from thousands of customers.

"It has certainly impacted their quality of life," said Supervisor Susan Bonilla, whose district includes Pacheco. "It's in the middle of a neighborhood, and Maricare is running a retail operation that was zoned for an office. There are far more impacts to the neighborhood than there should be for an office district."

The need for medical marijuana will continue, Hammer said, especially because the only sanctioned shop left in the county is MEDelivery's Dispensary in El Sobrante.

"It's not going away," Hammer said. "They are going to buy it from drug dealers in dark alleys and parks where it is dangerous. It's time for the county to come up with a regulatory scheme where Contra Costa County residents can have reasonable access to medical marijuana."

The county's one-year moratorium expires next month.

Bonilla said the moratorium would likely be extended until the board receives a task force report on how to regulate dispensaries. A decision could come as soon as this summer.

Ryan Huff covers Contra Costa County government. Reach him at 925-977-8471 or rhuff@cctimes.com.



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