UPLAND – Displaced patients from the now-closed G3 Holistic cooperative still have a place in town to go for their medical marijuana.
Upland Hidden Garden is open and serving patients with valid medical marijuana cards, despite an appellate court decision last month ruling in favor of the city’s ordinance banning dispensaries.
Upland Police Chief Jeff Mendenhall said the Police Department turned over investigation of the cooperative to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
“We are assisting the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA with anything that we can,” he said.
A man who identified himself as the owner of Upland Hidden Garden on Foothill Boulevard declined to comment.
Through August, the city had spent more than $208,000 on litigation involving G3 Holistic and more than $300,000 on litigation involving all the medical marijuana cooperatives that operated in the city, said City Manager Stephen Dunn.
G3 Holistic and other cooperatives in the city closed in September 2010 after the city filed an injunction in West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga.
Aaron Sandusky, president of G3, filed a stay on the injunction and appealed the city’s prohibition of dispensaries in the appellate court in Riverside.
Last month, the court ruled in favor of the city’s ordinance and upheld the injunction.
Sandusky plans to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court.
The city is aware of the newest co-op, but does not want to incur more legal fees in attempting to shut it down, Dunn said.
The city is hoping a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent to various property owners who lease to medical marijuana cooperatives will assist the city in getting the co-op closed.
“We’re kind of choosing that `wait and see’ right at the moment, only because it’s going to cost us tens of thousands of dollars to go after them legally,” Dunn said.
The day before the case was argued in court, G3’s three cooperatives in Upland, Colton and Moreno Valley as well as a warehouse in Ontario were raided by DEA agents.
Tom Mitchell, chairman of the City Council Advisory Committee, is the leasing agent for the property owner of the KB Foothill Center, but he said he backed out of the lease agreement with Upland Hidden Garden when he learned it was a medical marijuana cooperative.
“At that point I said, `well, then I’m not going to be part of this,”‘ he said.
The co-op approached the property owner as a “chronic pain clinic,” Mitchell said.
Realizing it could actually be a medical marijuana co-op, Mitchell drafted two lease agreements and met with the property owner and the co-op owners.
When he learned it was in fact a medical marijuana co-op, Mitchell gave the property owner the two lease agreements and advised both parties that the city would not allow it, he said.
He also drafted a letter for both owners to sign acknowledging that Mitchell was not party to any lease agreement they reached.
Mitchell said he continued to update the center’s owner about various court rulings and news articles on medical marijuana cooperatives.
When the appellate court made its ruling in favor of the city last month, Mitchell informed the property owner and drafted a notice of breach of lease, which was served to the co-op a couple of weeks ago, he said.
Upland Hidden Garden has until Dec. 23 to prove it is operating legally or to cease operation, but Mitchell is not convinced it will close, he said.
“The city can send a notice, and we can send a notice. All they have to do is fight it and fight us out in court,” Mitchell said. “That’s the problem that these property owners don’t really know is once you put them in there you’ve got them in there. It’s going to take a lot of money to fight in court, and they’ve got the money to fight in court.”
Councilman Gino Filippi said that while the state has enacted laws to protect medical marijuana dispensaries, the federal government has taken a different stance.
“My questions are the same – how many hundreds of thousands of dollars did the city of Upland spend on this issue over the past few years, and how much more will it cost?” Filippi said. “The city cannot afford these lawsuits. We are forced to lay off employees and reduce levels of public services while we keep fighting at the expense of the taxpayers. It makes little sense to me.”
Sandusky hopes to take his plea for having a place for patients to gain access to medical marijuana to the City Council Advisory Committee.
The city “needs to do the right thing and meet with me,” he said. “They need to discuss it openly and fairly, and we need to handle this once and for all, and I put it in the right forum so we can address everybody’s concerns.”
Sandusky said he hopes the Hidden Garden co-op is allowed to remain open.
“I hope they stay open. They need to stay open,” he said. “A lot of patients need to gain access to it. If they cut them off, it’ll be terrible.”
Reach Sandra via email, call her at 909-483-8555, or find her on Twitter @UplandNow .