Closed pot club sues city
August 24, 2004
Henry K. Lee, San Francisco ChronicleA shuttered Oakland medical marijuana club filed a lawsuit against the city Tuesday, saying it was unfairly denied a permit under an ordinance that cracked down on a downtown enclave known as 'Oaksterdam.'
The suit, filed by Dragonfly Alternative Healing Clinic in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, seeks a court order that would give the club a permit to continue operating this year 'without threat of civil and/or criminal sanctions.'
Dragonfly, at 1727 Telegraph Ave., closed shortly after June 1, when a new ordinance took effect that allows the city to regulate marijuana clubs and limit their number to four. The club reopened for about a month to serve its patients -- then closed again Friday after the city reportedly threatened to penalize the building owner.
The new limits adopted by the Oakland City Council broke up a cluster of about a dozen downtown marijuana clubs -- collectively known as 'Oaksterdam' -- by forcing them to operate at least 1,000 feet apart. Three medical marijuana clubs have received permits from the city.
Clubs without permits could face closure or remain open as cafes, without selling marijuana under Proposition 215, the state initiative that voters approved in 1996 that legalized medicinal cannabis with a doctor's recommendation.
Dragonfly's closure has harmed patients who say they have a proven medical necessity for the drug, the suit said.
'The City Council passed an ordinance which, while ostensibly enacted to protect the rights of patients, substantially hinders these rights, runs contrary to the meaning and spirit of the medical marijuana laws and violates both the state and federal constitutions,' the suit said.
Named as defendants in the suit are the city of Oakland, City Administrator Deborah Edgerly, the Oakland City Council and Police Chief Richard Word.
Karen Boyd, spokeswoman for the city attorney's office, said Tuesday that her office had not seen the suit and could not comment.
City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who co-sponsored the ordinance with Councilwoman Jean Quan, called the suit baseless.
Ken Estes, Dragonfly's owner, said Oakland police have visited the club and issued citations that carry a $1,000 fine.
'We believe we are a benefit to the city,' Estes said. 'I'm not doing anything illegal. I'm not doing anything bad.'
At a news conference outside City Hall, Stan Eby of San Leandro, who is in his 80s, said he depends on Estes to supply him with an ounce of marijuana worth $250 each week. Eby said he cooks the marijuana, which eases his severe arthritis.
'I just can't understand why the city is closing the club,' Eby said. 'I just don't buy my product from anyone else.'
Richard Lee, owner of the SR71 Cafe on 17th Street, which has a permit to sell medicinal marijuana, said he had supported the city's regulation of the club but not the limit of four.
'We think that (Dragonfly) and other clubs that were not issued permits should be given a fair chance to comply with regulations and stay in business, ' Lee said. 'The businesses were good for Oaksterdam.'
Danny Schultz, a San Francisco attorney representing Dragonfly, said several other medical marijuana clubs are also considering filing suit against the city. Although Oakland has been progressive in its support for medical marijuana in the past, Schultz said its actions against Dragonfly seem to be politically motivated.
E-mail Henry K. Lee at email@example.com.