Marijuana dispensary to close

November 03, 2007

Mike Sprague, Whittier Daily News (CA)

There will be no more medical marijuana dispensed from the city's only clinic after Dec. 31, the planning commission ruled Monday night.

Additionally, the Whittier Collective, 12450-A Washington Blvd., has reached agreement with its landlord, the Phelan Family Trust - owners of the Washington-Whittier Medical Center - to vacate the site by that date.

The dispensary had applied to extend its conditional use permit until Oct. 31, 2008, but that became moot after the landlord sought to evict the clinic.

The attempted eviction because of a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice to the landlord threatening jail time and loss of property because it's renting to a medical marijuana clinic, said Richard Brizendine, the collective's attorney.

The lease, which expires in October 2008, includes provisions that the clinic not violate any laws.

"The collective is operating in conformance with state and municipal law, but the difference is we're not in conformance with federal law," Brizendine said.

Since the clinic doesn't have the money to appeal an adverse judgement, it decided to shut down voluntarily, he said.

"Obviously we're disappointed, but what is really necessary is for the federal and state governments to come into alignment on the laws surrounding medical marijuana, he said.

California voters in 1996 approved Proposition 215 allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes. Marijuana use remains illegal under federal law.

The clinic has several hundred patients, said Bill Britt, a member of the Whittier Collective and executive director and founder of Association of Patient Advocates.

"It's so sad," Britt said. "You're getting sick and disabled people who had safe access who now are forced to go into the streets and buy it from criminals."

The Whittier Collective opened in September 2005. City officials learned of it while the council was debating an ordinance to allow, but regulate such clinics.

The clinic opened in an area where the city didn't allow medical marijuana dispensaries.



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