Mobile medical marijuana dispensaries look to be next big issue
June 21, 2013
Wes Woods II, Ryan Hagen, and Rick Orlov, San Bernardino SunTwo green crosses frame an announcement that Lima Collective Inc. in Running Springs is closed, and -- technically -- medical marijuana is no longer sold inside, said Mitchell Blanda, who ran the collective with two partners until the county told them they had to shut down.
But Blanda, two partners and occasional volunteers say openly that their operation continues "clandestinely."
Behind the counter, a chest contains samples of edibles, drops and marijuana accessories, the same types of items shown on the collective's website.
"You can order it by the phone, online, whatever, and we deliver it," said Blanda, 62. "Our patients still need it. We're not in it for money -- we barely break even -- but we think it's important for us to keep doing."
In an early May ruling, the state Supreme Court said local governments could ban dispensaries. But the city of Riverside, on June 11, went further with its City Council approving an emergency ordinance to prohibit mobile marijuana dispensaries as "necessary for preserving public peace, health, and safety," according to an agenda report.
Riverside Deputy City Attorney Neil Okazaki in video of the Riverside meeting said before its passage that "what we have found with other cities is that when storefront dispensaries close, what the operators do is move to a mobile operation where mobile marijuana dispensaries operate and deliver ... much like a pizza delivery service."
Back in Running Springs, Blanda said it's no secret to anyone in the small San Bernardino Mountains community that he delivers to about 9,000 people. That's about what it was before the Supreme Court's decision, although some people still come in to ask if the collective is open, he said.
Looking more frustrated than furtive, Blanda said he thought his operations were legal, based on the tentative opinion of attorney James DeAguilera, who represents the collective.
"Everything is a 'maybe,'" he said. "No one seems to know for sure what's allowed and what's not."
Amid the standard accessories of any business -- licenses, chairs, a cash register -- and laid-back decorations depicting marijuana leaves, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix -- a footlong ceramic statue stands out.
In a play on the "three mystic apes," one jade-colored monkey holds his hands around his eyes, another cups his hands around his ears and a third covers his mouth.
"See evil, hear evil -- do no evil," Blanda said.
A symbol of the collective's business approach?
"Nail on the head," he said.
In Los Angeles, city officials said they were not aware of any increase of mobile dispensaries, but there have been news reports of the services dating back to 2010 as uncertainty continues over whether the clinic operations would be allowed in the city.
The Center for Investigative Reporting identified a number of operations throughout Los Angeles at the time.
Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, said the operations are continuing on a low-key level.
"They aren't advertising, so it's difficult to pin a number down on how many operations there are in Los Angeles or across the state," Hermes said. "It has largely been an underground operation and is an outgrowth of the hostility many jurisdictions have toward clinic operations."
Los Angeles voters last month approved a measure to allow 135 clinics to remain in operation in the city, but would require the closure of the estimated 800 others in business.
"I would expect you will see an increase in delivery services, depending on how many dispensaries do open," Hermes said. "It's a natural by-product of people trying to get the medication they need. Often, that will mean a delivery service."
Fontana Police Chief Rodney Jones said his city has no ordinance against mobile dispensaries.
"One of my concerns is to see dispensaries go mobile," Jones said. "I'll definitely take a look at it. We do need to consider it. Our dispensaries will be trying to do that."
In San Bernardino, which has recently cracked down on its storefront dispensaries after banning them before the state Supreme Court decision, there is also no rule barring mobile marijuana dispensaries.
"The assumption is some of the places we've closed will be trying to do home deliveries," said City Attorney James F. Penman. "Our ordinance only bans them from having shops in San Bernardino. I have not heard comments from council members who passed (the initial ordinance) on if they're interested in this type of ordinance.
"Our office has not recommended this type of ordinance be adopted. If any businesses we closed attempts to run a delivery system out of a physical site in the city, that's a violation of the current ordinance. But in terms of banning mobile delivery that might be inconsistent with the state Supreme Court's ruling in the Riverside case.
"The Riverside (Supreme Court) case does not extend to home delivery. The people who legitimately fit within the requirement ... that allows them to obtain marijuana with the proper documentation I think they have the right to have that available to them whether it's delivered or whatnot. I don't see the (state) Supreme Court decision as striking that far."
Riverside attorney J. David Nick, who was on the losing side of the state Supreme Court case, said he sees litigation in cities' future for passing the ordinance.
"What the Supreme Court in essence ruled is there is a segment of the state Constitution that gives local authority the ability to control land use. Focus on that phrase. Land use. Thus ... it's no longer land-use control it's conduct control. And that's where there's got to be a differentiation. The whole point of this is it's going to be another four years of litigation.