Riverside Medical Marijuana Collective Stays Open While Tackling Lawsuit

lanny_swerdlow__2_By: Lanny Swerdlow

As many of you know from the article in the Press Enterprise and from the medical marijuana grapevine, the THCF Medical Clinic and the Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center were served with a lawsuit asserting that we are in violation of a zoning ordinance in the city of Riverside that bans the distribution of medicinal marijuana. Although the Press Enterprise story (http://www.pe.com/localnews/stories/PE_News_Local_D_wpot22.13dff793.html) did a good job of explaining the issues, I would like to give you some in-depth insights as to what is happening, why it happened and what is going to be done about it.

But before I do I want to remind you about what this email was going to be all about if this lawsuit had not been served and that is the Rally for Access at the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors this Tuesday, May 25

On June 19, the moratorium on medical marijuana collectives in San Bernardino County comes to an end. The promised medical marijuana collective ordinance is not going to happen which means San Bernardino County will most likely pass another one year moratorium. The question is what do we do now?

Although jumping up and down and stamping our feet would be cathartic, it would not get much accomplished and we have to deal with the situation now at hand and figure what can be done to actually get a medical marijuana collective ordinance into place once a ban is in place.

The problem last time is that there was no ongoing monitoring of the process that was supposed to be in place to draft an ordinance so when patients finally realized that nothing was being done, there wasn’t time left to actually get one written and in place. How do we solve that problem this time?

On May 25 when we go before the Board of Supervisors, in addition to reminding them of their commitment to implementing state law and passing a mmj collective ordinance, we need to ask that they follow the example of Palm Springs, San Diego and many other cities and counties and establish a committee to oversee the process.

The Palm Springs Medical Marijuana Task Force, of which I was a member, was composed of two representatives from the City Council, the Chief of Police and a Deputy, City Manager, City Attorney, Planning Staff and representatives from patient organizations and dispensaries. The meetings were open to the public and it was not unusual to have ten to twenty or more patients at a meeting providing the committee with input and guidance.

It worked and Palm Springs became the first, and so far only, city in the Inland Empire to enact a medical marijuana ordinance allowing for collectives to operate under their zoning laws. In fact, the first licensed collective anywhere in the Inland Empire, Cannahelp, will hold its grand opening the same day as our rally in San Bernardino. (Any one up to
carpooling to Palm Springs to celebrate their grand opening after our presentation before the SB Board?)

This is what we need to do on Tuesday, May 25 before the Board – ask them to establish a Medical Marijuana Task Force and charge the Task Force with developing an ordinance and bringing it to the board in as rapid a manner as is consistent with developing a good solid workable ordinance.

Hopefully 3 of the 5 Board members will recognize this as a viable solution and at a subsequent Board meeting, establish the Task Force.

I know this is kind of going hat-in-hand before the Board that has spurned us before, but we have to be realists and take actions that hold out the promise of obtaining safe, reliable and local access. If we don’t do it, who will? Better I should ask, if you don’t do it, who will?

Please make the time to join us on Tuesday, May 25 at our rally at the SB Board of Supervisors meeting. Let them know how disappointed you are by the County’s inaction and why access is so important to you and other patients. Ask that this time a committee be formed to oversee the process and that patients be on the committee. If you have the time, let them know that you would be willing to serve on this committee.

The Rally for Access at the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors begins at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 25. We will rally in front of the County Administration Building where the Board meets. We will have some speakers, signs to wave, cheer as cars, trucks and assorted other vehicles honk in support and time to meet with friends and make new friends. When the public comment section comes up, we will go into the Board chamber and those who would like to make a 3
Minute presentation before the Board are strongly encouraged to do so.

The County Administration Building is located at 385 N. Arrowhead in downtown San Bernardino 92415.

If you are interested in making a day of it and car pooling to the Grand Opening of Cannahelp in Palm Springs after the Board meeting, send me an email or call me at 760-799-2055 and let me know so car pool arrangements can be made.

OK – WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE RIVERSIDE COLLECTIVE

On Thursday afternoon two gentlemen from Riverside County visited my house in White Water and handed me a summons to notify me that I had been named in a lawsuit filed by the city of Riverside to close down the collective operating in Riverside which the lawsuit listed as the THCF Health and Wellness Center. I was not surprised that a lawsuit had been filed – what stunned me was that I was the only person named in it.

In the article in the Press Enterprise, it states that Riverside City Attorney Greg “Priamos said that simply issuing recommendations for medical marijuana isn’t a problem, but the city is going after both facilities because officials believe they are one operation, with Swerdlow as the operator.”

Obviously someone in Riverside County hasn’t done their homework. The clinic and the collective are totally separate with no legal or fiscal connections. The actual work of running the collective is overseen by William Sump. I continued to oversee the operations of the THCF Medical working alongside Dr. Paul Ironside who provides qualified patients with their recommendations.

The lawsuit filed by the city of Riverside does not allege that the collective is doing anything not in compliance with the AG Guidelines. It is only alleging that the collective is violating a city zoning ordinance that bans the operation of “a facility where marijuana is made available for medical purposes in accordance with Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 (Proposition 215).” This definition is so overbroad that it arguably bans even cultivation in a patient’s private home and certainly a home in which a patient may be growing for other patients.

In any case, violating a zoning ordinance is a civil offense, not a criminal offense. You do not arrest, confiscate and imprison a person for violating a civil ordinance. You serve them a summons like the city of Riverside has done and you duke it out in court and may the party with the best arguments win.

We are not afraid of fighting for patient rights in a civil court – in fact we welcome it as we believe we are legally right and the city is legally wrong and we will win. What concerns us is the possibility of a raid such as collectives have recently experienced in San Bernardino County. I have spoken with one of our attorneys who is of the opinion that this
is not likely to happen although he admits that Riverside County DA Rod Pacheco and Riverside City Attorney
Priamos move in strange ways.

So what are we going to do? First off, we are consulting with a number of attorneys as to what this lawsuit is all about and how we should best respond. We will be answering the lawsuit within the 30 days given to us to respond. We will be denying all allegations of violating any ordinance and claim that the city’s ban on collectives violates the rights of patients to form them as provided for in SB 420.

Most importantly the collective will be staying open providing member patients with medicine and the clinic will be open providing prospective patients with their recommendations and current patients with their renewals.

The Press Enterprise article was a good start in letting the public know what is going on and how the city is refusing to license and regulate collectives and instead has created a Wild West free-for-all. But most importantly, we need to let the people of Riverside and the Riverside City Council know that wasting tax payer money and city employee time drafting voluminous lawsuits to close collectives is wrong, wrong, wrong. Instead, tax payer money and city employee
time should be used productively to draft a medical marijuana collective ordinance that will provide local access to patients and do so in way that causes no problems for the city or its residents.

The way to bring that about is to use our rights under the U.S. Constitution which guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” We have grievances and we are going to let the Riverside City Council know about them on Tuesday, June 1 at 6:30 p.m. where we will assemble one of the largest groups of people ever to attend a Riverside City Council meeting.

Our elected officials are well aware that general public supports medical marijuana and that they support licensed and regulated access to medicinal marijuana. The refusal of our elected officials to recognize this and instead kowtow to Riverside City Attorney Priamos’s reefer madness mentality is both counter-productive and a slap in the face to Riverside
city residents and the voters of California.

Watch for future emails with updates on what is happening with the collective and the clinic, but right now circle Tuesday, June 1 and write in 6:30 p.m. and be at Riverside City Hall at 3900 Main Street, Riverside 9255 to demand your right to safe, reliable and local access as well as the respect that you so rightfully deserve.

REMINDER: RIVERSIDE COUNTY DA CANDIDATE FORUM THURSDAY, MAY 27 @ 7:30 P.M.

I am sure you have placed a gold star on your calendar for Thursday, May 27 at 7:30 p.m. when there will be a special forum featuring the candidates for Riverside County DA – well one of the two candidates anyway. Judge Paul Zellerbach has accepted the invitation and will be there.

We have not heard from Rod Pacheco and don’t expect to, but that’s OK as Judge Zellerbach is an outstanding candidate with 22 years experience as a Riverside County Deputy District Attorney and ten years as a Judge in the Riverside Superior Courts.

Judge Zellerbach will inform you of his candidacy and position on a variety of important issues facing the voters of Riverside County. He will specifically address the issue of medical marijuana law enforcement and let us know where he agrees with current enforcement practice and where he thinks change needs to be made. There will be ample opportunity for questions at the end of his presentation.

The DA Community Forum will take place on Thursday, May 27 beginning promptly at 7:30 p.m. at the THCF Medical Clinic, 647 Main Street,, Riverside 92501. Plan now to be at this special event and get there early if you want a seat as it will most likely be standing room only.

PUBLIC APOLOGY

At the last meeting of MAPP in Riverside, I really goofed and I want to offer a public apology to Tim Dresman of BP Medical Solutions in Lake Elsinore.
Tim had, on his own volition, met with staff members in Riverside County Planning Department on why they were dragging their feet in implementing an ordinance for medical marijuana collectives. They asked him to prepare a draft ordinance for their consideration and Tim had done so.

Tim and I had some very intense discussions on just what is involved in meeting with Riverside County staff. I have a lot of respect for a guy that took it upon himself to try and get something going. It would be so cool if we had more people like him that would take the time to meet with Riverside County officials and let them know that their lack of action is disgraceful.

Tim is a committed activist who has opened a collective and braved all the threats and blusters of local officials and law enforcement to provide medicine to patients. I felt what he did in meeting with Riverside Co. planners was important and an example that others could follow so I asked him to come to the meeting and present his draft ordinance to the meeting and to let everyone know what he had found out during his meeting with these staff members.

Unfortunately, after the rather lengthy discussion of the problems in San Bernardino, I brought on our main speaker, Dr. Christopher Fitchner and totally forgot to bring Tim on. I know everyone is thinking “short term memory loss” but honestly I hadn’t imbibed for several hours so I can’t blame it on cannabis. I can only blame it on myself and apologize to Tim for being so empty-headed. I hope he will be able to make to the next meeting on Wednesday, June 2 and I absolutely promise not to have any short term memory loss of any kind.

MONDAY RADIO SHOW FEATURES A PATIENT DISCUSSING THE CONUNDRUM OF BEING ON DISABILITY AND USING MARIJUANA MEDICINALLY

Our featured guest will be a mmj patient on disability who has found that using marijuana has so benefited him that he is in danger of losing his disability benefits. Wanda Smith will also join us to discuss the SB Rally on Tuesday. The radio show is interactive, so call in your questions and comments on our listener call-in line at 888-909-1050.

Tune in this Monday and every Monday at 6 p.m. to Marijuana Compassion and Common Sense on radio station KCAA 1050AM heard everywhere in western Inland Empire. If you can’t tune it in on your radio, then fire up your computer, log on to www.kcaaradio.com and click on LISTEN LIVE.

I would like to thank the William H. Gunn Construction Co. and THCF Medical Clinic for sponsoring our radio show. If you would like to let our dedicated audience know of your business, get the word out that you are cannabis friendly and help support the cause, then contact me and I will let you know about our very reasonable advertising rates.

LOST BRIEFCASE AT MAPP MEETING

A black brief case with no one’s name but information relating to Humane Health Care in it was left at the last MAPP meeting in Riverside. If you are wondering where it went, it’s at the THCF Medical Clinic and can be picked up Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. See ya at the rally on Tuesday and the DA Candidate forum on Thursday. – Lanny – 760-799-2055

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