Business-license refusal for med-pot shops upheld

January 15, 2008

Roger Phelps, El Dorado Hills Telegraph (CA)

County supervisors Jan. 8 denied an appeal of a business-license refusal for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County.

The decision has been criticized as part of an unfair county targeting of med-pot patients.

Supervisor Ron Briggs's motion passed 4-1 upholding the Treasurer-Tax Collector's Office non-renewal of the Cameron Park non-profit's business license. The department cited a county ordinance specifying licenses can be denied if a business commits a violation of federal law.

"The dispensing of marijuana is a violation of federal law," wrote Treasurer-Tax Collector C.L. Raffety in a report to supervisors.

Matt Vaughn, chief executive officer of the caregivers' association, wrote Dec. 3 to Supervisor Rusty Dupray, "California's courts have consistently ruled that local governing agencies do not have the authority to interpret and enforce federal law."

Use of medical pot is legal in California under the state's 1996 Compassionate Use Act. However, county sheriff's deputies have arrested several licensed pot growers and then turned the cases over to federal authorities for prosecution, a controversial move.

Sheriff Jeff Neves has said he backs his deputies but acknowledges the mismatch between state and federal laws is putting pressure on his department. Neves has said the mismatch needs to be resolved. 

Briggs said after the meeting his motion was based simply on what he saw as a correct adminstrative move by the Treasurer-Tax Collector's Office. However, he acknowledged that the idea of legal medical pot use in conservative El Dorado County took some getting used to for him. "I believe the county has accepted quite a bit in terms of leniency and compassion," Briggs said.

After the decision, Vaughn posted the following statement on the group's Web site. 

"El Dorado County has made it clear at today's hearing on the appeal of the Treasurer-Tax Collector's refusal to renew MMCA's business license that it wasn't just about renewing our business license. Rather, they showed that they were systematically denying the voters of California due process and fairness and that they intend to continue to deny due process to the sick people of this county by not allowing 'dispensaries' anywhere in the county."

Cami Roberts, the county's accounting division manager, earlier had informed Vaughn that an audit showed original approval of a license for the group carried a condition of no dispensing of prescription drugs.

Vaughn has vowed to fight the county's move.

"If the county wants to turn this into a criminal issue, they know where to find me," Vaughn wrote in the Web posting.

The Telegraph's Roger Phelps can be reached at rogerp@goldcountrymedia. com, or post a comment at

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