Is medical pot still a pipe dream?

In Agoura Hills, the answer is yes


CULTIVATING POT—Agoura continues its battle with Conejo Wellness Center, a medical marijuana collective that was banned by the city. The issue of how California cities deal with pot stores is still being litigated.

CULTIVATING POT—Agoura continues its battle with Conejo Wellness Center, a medical marijuana collective that was banned by the city. The issue of how California cities deal with pot stores is still being litigated.

A ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in Agoura Hills was upheld by the California Court of Appeal earlier this year, but one pot store in the city, Conejo Wellness Center, is hoping for better treatment by the state Supreme Court.

CWC is a nonprofit medical marijuana collective that has been fighting to overturn two of the city’s ordinances that banned marijuana dispensaries.

The center is represented by Arthur D. Hodge, a lawyer in Carlsbad. Hodge argued that the city violated his client’s state constitutional rights to due process and that the Agoura ordinances banning the cooperative are in violation of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the landmark law that legalized medical pot use in the state.

The ‘96 California law decriminalized medical marijuana—but did not say cities must allow marijuana dispensaries to operate, even if they are presented as nonprofit groups.

CWC filed a complaint against Agoura Hills with the state Court of Appeal. The city responded with a cross complaint saying that Conejo Wellness had failed to obtain proper permits and approvals from the city and also did not obtain a valid business license from Los Angeles County.

In March, the appelate court sided with the city and banned the center from “selling, providing or otherwise making available marijuana at or from its current location or any other location within Agoura.”

Hodge hopes that down the road the California Supreme Court will see things differently.

“We disagree with the appellate decision and look forward to a reversal by the California Supreme Court,” he said.

“This is not a business; it’s a collective of patients with serious medical conditions and prescriptions for medical marijuana.”

“In banning medical marijuana dispensaries, the city was not making a medical determination,” Agoura Hills city attorney Candace Lee said. Marijuana dispensaries were simply not a land use approved by the city, she said.

Agoura Hills City Manager Greg Ramirez said although California has approved the use of medical marijuana for almost any health issue, the use of cannabis still violates federal law.

And Lee added, “The city has the police power authority to ban certain uses to protect the health, safety and welfare of the city.”

Other dispensaries have opened in Agoura Hills, only to be quickly closed. The most recent, Ultimate Farms Organics, or UFO, was closed within a few months of opening in Whizin Market Square.

Ramirez said the high court in California is already considering a case about a cooperative based in Riverside and believes the ruling will apply to Agoura Hills and other local cities that have banned cannabis clubs.

A Pew Research Center poll released in April shows 52 percent of Americans approve the legalization of pot and 45 percent oppose.

“Currently, California is in transition to legalization of cannabis,” Hodge said. “The questions are, when will legalization happen, and once it does, what regulations will be implemented.

“The region and specifically Agoura Hills, needs safe access for medical patients who are using marijuana legally and need to obtain it for treatment as prescribed by a licensed physician,” he said.


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