OCEANSIDE: Officials say they've closed all marijuana dispensaries in city

October 17, 2011

Ray Huard, North County Times

Oceanside city officials said this week they have now successfully closed every medical marijuana dispensary in the city, with North County Collective the latest.

Signs posted Monday in the windows and on the front door of the collective's dispensary at 913 S. Coast Highway read "permanently closed forever!" and "closed by court order from the city of Oceanside."

Lance Rogers, a lawyer for North County Collective, said the dispensary ran out of money to continue to challenge the city in court. A court settlement is pending under which collective operator John Scandalios has agreed to close for good.

"They (the dispensary operators) took the route that everyone else took in Oceanside ---- it just wasn't fiscally possible anymore," Rogers said. "Believe it or not, my client is a real not-for-profit organization that does not have a limitless bucket of attorney fees to take on the city of Oceanside."

The closures are bad news for the sick and disabled who use the drug and will now be forced to go elsewhere in San Diego County or find a delivery service that will bring it to them, said Eugene Davidovich, an advocate for for medical marijuana.

"It makes it very cumbersome for them to drive out of town or find an alternative," said Davidovich, coordinator of the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

Under the terms of the agreement between the city and North County Collective now pending before Vista Superior Court Judge Earl Maas, Scandalios promised he wouldn't operate a dispensary or other business in Oceanside that distributes marijuana without first getting a business license. He also agreed to pay the city $2,000 in court costs.

Oceanside officials have refused to accept applications for business licenses from marijuana collectives because city zoning codes don't allow such businesses.

Operators of another dispensary, Abaca Medical Collective at 1933/1935 S. Coast Highway, signed a similar agreement that was approved Oct. 11 by Vista Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Stern.

Two other dispensaries, Fire Mountain Medical Collective at 2101 S. El Camino Real and CKS Organics at 1906 Oceanside Blvd., were closed in August by court order or by agreement.

"We have injunctions which say they're prevented from operating in Oceanside," City Attorney John Mullen said.

Oceanside officials haven't gone after delivery services, as long as they're based outside the city.

In all, the city has closed six dispensaries since January for operating without a business license.

The city action against the dispensaries preceded a federal crackdown on dispensaries earlier this month.

San Diego U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy and U.S. attorneys in three other California districts mailed warnings to landlords where marijuana was grown or sold, telling them that they could face criminal charges or have their property seized if they didn't evict the marijuana operations.

Duffy last week said she may expand the crackdown to go after newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets that accept advertising from the dispensaries.

Mullen said the federal crackdown was "a pretty good incentive" to prevent new collectives from popping up in Oceanside.

"I think it's probably been helpful to have the feds come out and say that the property owner's at risk." Mullen said.

Despite the action by city and federal officials, Davidovich said Safe Access is proceeding with plans to mount a petition drive to overturn the provision in Oceanside's zoning code that prohibits dispensaries.

"It's an important issue to many elderly and veterans," Davidovich said.

Safe Access hopes to put the issue on the November 2012 ballot in Oceanside and Imperial Beach, he said. "We're still moving ahead with the initiative for 2012, both in Imperial Beach and Oceanside."

Davidovich and other medical marijuana advocates contend that Oceanside's zoning code violates Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act passed by California voters in 1996.

"It's troubling because no case ever gets to a trial," Rogers said. "There's never a final decision because the city comes in and obtains a (court) restraining order against the collective from operating, and it's difficult for them to maintain a case all the way through a jury trial, which could be five or six months later."

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