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Los Angeles scores quick win as medical marijuana dispensary decides to close

May 11, 2011 |  9:32 pm

Los Angeles, which has struggled for years to find an efficient way to force hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries out of business, scored a quick win Wednesday when one of the seven stores the city sued last week announced it had closed its doors.

The decision came after the city’s attorneys pressed the landlord to evict Cancare Collective and after the operators decided to avoid costly litigation. At a hearing Wednesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant also issued an injunction barring the North Hollywood dispensary from operating at 11120 Burbank Blvd. or any other location.

The city filed four earlier lawsuits to close dispensaries, arguing that they were violating state law by selling marijuana. The suits were successful, but dragged on for months. The new lawsuits are based on a violation of the city’s zoning code, which does not allow dispensaries.

“We are hopeful that we will be more successful and speedy this time around,” said Asha Greenberg, the managing assistant city attorney who has led the effort.

The dispensary’s attorney, David Welch, predicted that the city’s new legal approach would not withstand close scrutiny. “I can tell you that there are collectives that will fight,” he said.

But Welch said the operators of Cancare Collective could not afford the expense. “I think that in the end that’s what the city wants. They want to find a way to bleed the collectives out of existence,” he said. “If they were to sue every collective in the city, a good portion of them would be unable to muster the resources to defend themselves in court.”

Welch also said the city attorneys had repeatedly called the landlord, who was also sued. “The landlord was afraid, and the landlord was pushing to evict my client,” he said.

Greenberg said the city had reached an agreement with the landlord to oust the dispensary.

In earlier lawsuits, the city has relied on undercover officers to make repeated buys to demonstrate marijuana was being sold. This time, it had one narcotics officer watch the store for an hour, and record the comings and goings of patrons who left with pill bottles and paper bags. The last customer was stopped by officers, and he told them he had bought marijuana at the store.

Greenberg said her office would expand its latest lawsuit campaign to uproot dispensaries. “We’re going to file more as we get the evidence from LAPD,” she said.


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Dozens more L.A. medical marijuana dispensaries ordered immediately closed

-- John Hoeffel