Passing an ordinance ordering the closure of Redding’s medical-marijuana cooperatives is the easy part.
Making it stick promises to be a long and expensive battle for the city.
Agree or disagree with the huge pro-marijuana crowd that picketed and then packed the City Council Chambers Tuesday night, it’s clear that it represented a movement. Its members are motivated, organized, lawyered up, backed by professional advocacy groups and fully prepared to fight for what they believe to be their rights.
And after the council’s unamious vote to shut them down as of Dec. 1, several collectives’ operators said they had no intention of closing voluntarily. At least one attorney was already in court Wednesday seeking an injunction against the co-op shutdown.
Redding City Attorney Rick Duvernay argued passionately on behalf of the city’s course. He stressed city officials’ potential legal jeopardy from U.S. attorneys determined to crack down on marijuana sales – a distant prospect but a serious one – as well the need for continued oversight of collectives.
Even so, he freely acknowledged that the city “can and likely will be sued” in response to the order to close co-ops.
Unfortunately, nobody talked about the cost of those lawsuits – or about the cost of shutting down dispensaries that have a mind to resist.
In an article that’s all too timely, The Los Angeles Times reported this week that various California cities have spent anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million in legal efforts to shut down unwelcome marijuana sales. And even still, some didn’t succeed. ( Others closed storefronts, but officials confessed marijuana use and sales were undiminished. )
Duvernay says a recent appeals court decision handing cities more authority to ban collectives and especially the recent U.S. Justice Department crackdown on commercial medical-marijuana sales make the city’s task easier, as a legal matter. And indeed, if the federal prosecutors bring down a hammer on co-ops – or their landlords – they’d disappear faster than you can say “civil asset forfeiture.”
If the city’s serious, maybe it should go all in and call the federal cavalry for help.
We don’t think driving collectives underground is a sensible approach. Like it or not, under current law there’s a lot of marijuana around, protected by Proposition 215. Hiding it won’t make it go away.
But even worse would be spending a million dollars – money the city can scarcely afford these days – on a protracted and uncertain legal battle.
Would it be crazy to go from licensing businesses one month to trying to sic the U.S. attorney’s office on them the next? Yes, but such crazy decisions are precisely what you get with a chaotic and contradictory set of laws.
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2011 Record Searchlight
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Website: Redding Record Searchlight: Local Redding, California News Delivered Throughout the Day.