California Judge Rejects Effort To Keep Pot Shops Open


Photo: Paul Rodriguez, The Orange County Register

​​A federal judge has rejected a request by four Orange County, California medical marijuana patients for a temporary injunction preventing the cities of Lake Forest and Costa Mesa from shutting down marijuana dispensaries.

The four patients — Marla James, Wayne Washington, James Armantrout and Charles Daniel — argued through their lawyer, Matthew Pappas, that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives disabled people a federally protected right to use medical marijuana if such use is legal under state law, report Erika I. Ritchie and Ellyn Pak at The Orange County Register.
The patients were asking the judge to temporarily stop the cities from taking further action against dispensaries; bar the cities from violating the rights of qualified patients under the ADA; avoid damages for past actions in violation of the ADA; and award attorneys’ fees.

Photo: Paul Bersebach, The Orange County Register
Matthew Pappas, left, is the attorney for James Armantrout and Marla James, who tried to use the Americans with Disabilities Act to prevent Lake Forest and Costa Mesa from shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries.

​Pappas said his clients would suffer irreparable harm without a preliminary injunction against the two cities.
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Guilford, however, ruled in favor of the cities Friday.
“At this stage, the court agrees with the defendants,” Judge Guilford ruled. “Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, and under that Act, it currently has no medical purpose.”
Pappas said he is taking a look at his legal options. “We’ll certainly consider appealing to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals,” he said.
Lake Forest officials are still waiting for a ruling on their request to shut down 11 additional dispensaries in the city.
In September, the city sued 35 people, including dispensary owners and retail landowners who rented space to them. Since then, several dispensaries have closed, but 11 remain.
Shannon Saccullo, owner of Earth Cann Wellness Center, a medical marijuana collective in Lake Forest, was disappointed by the judge’s decision.
“This is a sad day where patients are only bound to Western medicine,” Saccullo said. “Marijuana is a natural substance. It’s sad that the judge hasn’t educated himself on these healthful benefits.”
Between 10 and 15 dispensaries are still operating in Costa Mesa, according to Deputy City Attorney Jim Touchstone. In 2005, the city adopted a zoning ordinance prohibiting the pot shops.
In February, Costa Mesa police began cracking down on dispensaries operating in the city. The city’s police and code enforcement officers have given cease-and-desist letters to shops, along with arresting some dispensary owners for marijuana sales and possession.
Two of the dispensaries that were ordered to shut down have responded by filing a lawsuit alleging that Costa Mesa’s ban is unconstitutional.
In an April 19 complaint, Herban Elements, INc., and MedMar Patient Care Collective argue that Costa Mesa’s ordinance banning dispensaries conflicts with the state constitution and bars patients from safely accessing their medicine, legal under state law since 1996.