A Riverside judge on Friday denied a restraining order sought by the city of Murrieta against a newly-opened medical marijuana cooperative.
The Murrieta City Council on Tuesday in a closed session directed its legal staff to pursue the restraining order as the first course of action in permanently shutting down . The city has a on medical marijuana dispensaries.
The city's legal team, including attorney Jeff Morris, went before Riverside County Superior Court Judge John W. Vineyard with the goal of obtaining the restraining order, but came away empty-handed.
Morris told Patch in a phone interview Friday that the judge said their request was "too broad" so he set a hearing for Feb. 17. Morris believes at that time the city will be granted a permanent injunction against the medical marijuana operation.
"This was strictly a preliminary order," Morris said. "The judge would rather just have the hearing."
Morris said the city will continue issuing daily citations to Greenhouse Cannabis Club for being out of compliance with the city's municipal code.
"The city has a moratorium in place on medical marijuana, and plus they do not have a business license," Morris said.
Reached by phone Friday, Greenhouse Cannabis Club Director Eric McNeil said Murrieta police code enforcement officers did not issue him citations on Thursday or Friday at the cooperative located at 26151 Jefferson Ave., Suite A. He had been receiving daily citations of up to $2,500 since opening Jan. 3 after relocating from Lakeland Village near Lake Elsinore.
"I don't think they are able to cite me every day," McNeil said. "The moratorium the city has in place has too many gray areas in it, and a lot of constitutional issues. If they were going to do a moratorium they should have had the people vote on it. The City Council voted based on their own personal beliefs."
Medical marijuana is legal in California. On Thursday, the California Supreme Court agreed to review how cities and counties regulate medical marijuana.
The High Court will review two controversial medical marijuana cases—Pack v. City of Long Beach and City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center., Inc.—then consider whether local governments can ban medical marijuana dispensaries given that the drug is legal under California voter-approved Proposition 215.
The court will also review the continued conflict between state and federal law. Under federal law, marijuana is illegal. The Pack decision held that some dispensary regulations may be preempted by federal law and the Riverside decision held that municipalities can legally ban dispensaries altogether.
As for the city of Murrieta's legal battle against medical marijuana dispensaries, Greenhouse Cannabis Club is the second to open its doors in the city in recent months. but was forced to close indefinitely in October when the same Riverside Superior Court judge ruled in favor of an injunction by the city.
Beth Burns, co-owner of Cooperative Medical Group at 26690 Madison Ave., Suite 103, has hired an attorney and filed an appeal. They are due in apellate court later this month.
"We are not stopping until we get a resolution," Burns said in an email to Patch. "Patients have the right to safe access. What better way than a storefront model?
"The new co-op in town is brings the benefit of a long term lease to a building owner. I can run a good, responsible and clean co-op. Spending thousands of dollars on something that is not going to go away is not exactly a smart move."
"Maybe it is time for the city to sit down with some of us co-ops and maybe regulate us," McNeil said.
His attorney, Richard Ackerman, could not be reached Friday for comment regarding the judge's ruling against the city's temporary restraining order.
Ackerman spoke with Patch earlier in the week, when he contended the operation is a nonprofit and is a meeting place for medical marijuana patients. He said the cooperative patients' civil and medical privacy rights were being violated by police scrutiny.
"...You are doing so because you unreasonably believe that you have a right to stop ANY ACTIVITY having to do with the use, possession, advocacy of, sharing of, presence of, or other speech content relating to marijuana," states a notice of rights he advised McNeil to serve to officers when they enter the cooperative.
"You are chilling the free exercise of rights of persons who may or may not be in possession, custody of, bearing a recommendation for, associating with certain persons related to, or just about anyone engaging in First Amendment activities relating to views about medical marijuana," the notice continues.
"Worse yet, you are interfering with our preservation, collection, maintenance and use of evidence against your alleged violations of constitutional law."
Ackerman contended there is no proof that profit is being made at the store.
Morris, on the other hand, diasgreed.
"What is happening is marijuana is being distributed in exchange for cash."
Toni McAllister contributed to this report.