Murrieta City Council is poised to vote Tuesday on whether the city attorney, in consultation with the police chief and city manager, should be granted the power to initiate legal actions against those in violation of the city’s temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.
If approved by City Council during their meeting Tuesday night, the city attorney would not need prior Council approval to initiate litigation, according to an agenda report prepared by city staff.
Written by City Attorney Robert Mahlowitz and Murrieta police Capt. Dennis Vrooman, and approved by Murrieta police Chief Mike Baray and Assistant City Manager Jim Holston, city staff is recommending Council approval.
The request comes after a medical marijuana dispensary, Diamond Star Remedies, recently opened its doors in Murrieta.
The dispensary, at 41449 Los Alamos Road, was ordered closed Thursday due to alleged code violations.
Typically, the initiation of legal action would need to wait until a City Council met or a special meeting was called.
“By conferring this standing authority to initiate litigation, the City Council can communicate to the public that the City will work as swiftly as possible to enforce its medical marijuana moratorium against any person or entity that distributes medical marijuana in the City in violation of the moratorium,” Mahlowitz and Vrooman wrote in the staff report.
The city first took a stance on medical marijuana dispensaries in 2005, when it enacted a permanent prohibition—a ban. In October 2011, after a dispensary opened on Madison Avenue, city council members approved a temporary moratorium which ultimately was extended to September 2013.
“The moratorium may be enforced via civil penalties and by a lawsuit seeking an injunction against a dispensary operator and/or the owner of property where the dispensary is located. Moving swiftly against medical marijuana dispensary operators strengthens the City’s ability to obtain injunctions ordering dispensary operations to close. When the Police Department and City Attorney learn of new medical marijuana dispensary operations in between regular meetings of the City Council, potential delay can occur awaiting authorization of legal action to enforce the medical marijuana dispensary moratorium.”
Matthew Pappas, an attorney who was hired by Diamond Star Remedies operator John Szwec, told Patch in a previous interview that cities such as Murrieta are guilty of discriminating against patients’ rights, as the use of medical marijuana was legalized by California voters.
The City Council is set to vote on the item during its 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17 in Council Chambers at Murrieta City Hall, 1 Town Square. Other agenda items include a discussion regarding further pension modifications for Murrieta police employees that would be effective Dec. 30.
View the full agenda by clicking here.