Glass shelves were stocked with medical marijuana Tuesday afternoon in a storefront in Murrieta, although the city has a moratorium on such operations.
Eric McNeil, the owner of Greenhouse Cannabis Club, or GHCC, 26151 Jefferson Ave., Suite A, contends the operation is a cooperative—not a dispensary—and said he is operating within his rights.
"A dispensary is a place where you go and purchase products; a co-op is a club where members bring products," McNeil said. "We are allowed to take donations and those go toward (overhead)."
McNeil relocated GHCC to Murrieta after it was He was serving 2,500 clients there, and said they have followed him.
He said he chose Murrieta because his landlord agreed to give him a one-year lease.
"He hasn't had a tenant in three years," McNeil said.
Murrieta police said they were aware GHCC opened.
"Yes—illegally," said Murrieta police Capt. Dennis Vrooman when asked. "The city has a moratorium on dispensaries."
The moratorium was approved by City Council Nov. 15, 2011, and is in effect through the end of this year. (
Vrooman said further, GHCC is operating without a business license, and that the Police Department has "been in contact with our city attorney as to their operation."
GHCC opened Jan. 3 in its Murrieta location.
"When we found out they were operating, we contacted the employees Sunday," Vrooman said. "On Monday, we asked them to voluntarily close and we would not cite them.
"Mr. McNeil told us he would voluntarily close so we did not give them any administrative citations—based on his word."
But McNeil said he is operating within California law, and has hired an attorney whom he hopes will sort things out with the city.
"I was staying low-key and discreet," McNeil said. "I have no signage, just 6-inch white letters on the door."
He said he closed the shop Monday, but after his attorney served a letter to City Hall and the Police Department Tuesday, he reopened.
"My attorney advised me to go ahead and open back up," McNeil said.
McNeil said the police were cordial when they came on their initial visit.
But he complained that on Monday, his clients were stopped by police as they left the facility.
"They were harassing my patients, pulling them over without probable cause," McNeil said. "They all had (medical marijuana) cards."
Vrooman said some traffic stops were conducted.
"They were for violations separate from anything to do with the dispensary," Vrooman said. "Nobody was cited for marijuana possession. If there were any citations issued, they were for driving violations."
The city of Murrieta Dispensary owners Beth Burns and Charles Thompson racked up more than $44,000 in daily citations for being open.