Disabled Patients Take Pot Case To Federal Court


Photo: Michael Goulding/The Orange County Register
A woman leaves the Evergreen Holistic Collective in Lake Forest, California. The collective is one of 11 remaining in the city, which is trying to shut them all down

‚ÄčA federal judge is expected on Monday to hear arguments on whether four marijuana patients can use the Americans with Disabilities Act to prevent two Orange County, California cities from closing medical pot dispensaries.

The lawsuit, being filed against Lake Forest and Costa Mesa on behalf of Orange County residents Marla James, Wayne Washington, James Armantrout and Charles Daniel DeJong, alleges the cities’ efforts to shut down dispensaries deny them access to public services, reports Erika I. Ritchie at The Orange County Register.

“All of them suffer from severe disabilities and illness,” said Matthew Pappas, who represents the patients. “They have tried other medicines to help all the various symptoms associated with the disabilities and illnesses, and those have not worked for them.”
The four patients are asking the court to temporarily prevent the cities from taking further action against dispensaries; bar the cities from violating the rights of qualified medical marijuana patients under the ADAS; award damages for past actions in violation of the ADA; and award attorney fees.
Pappas will argue that the ADA law allows patients to lawfully use marijuana for medical purposes under both federal and state law, according to the complaint.
Jeffrey Dunn, an attorney who represents Lake Forest, said federal law doesn’t permit any use for marijuana, medical or otherwise.
“That issue was decided in 2005,” Dunn said. “This is a legal argument. We’re not contending they aren’t patients under ADA. But what they’re asking for is illegal.”
In September 2009, Lake Forest sued 35 people in the city, including dispensary owners and retail landowners who rented space to them. Since them, some collectives have shut down, including one raided by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
The city is involved in a number of lawsuits targeting marijuana collectives based on locations and ownership.
Eleven medical marijuana dispensaries, including one that opened in January, still operate in Lake Forest. Ten shut down after being sued by the city, or in some cases, after their landlords came under pressure.
City officials are now waiting to hear a judge’s decision on their request for a preliminary injunction to shut down the remaining pot stores.
Costa Mesa officials are trying to shut down a number of dispensaries in commercial and industrial areas, citing the city’s 2005 ordinance that bans pot shops.
In February, Costa Mesa police started a crackdown on dispensaries operating in the city. Forty-eight “cease and desist” letters have been given out by police and code enforcement officers. Some dispensary owners have also been arrested for marijuana sales and possession.