County Supervisors Crackdown on Marijuana Dispensaries

Jaffa King

County Supervisors Crackdown on Marijuana Dispensaries

CREATED Dec. 14, 2011

RIVERSIDE - The Board of Supervisors Tuesday authorized its attorneys to sue any marijuana dispensary in the unincorporated county area, or the owner of any property where a dispensary conducts business, unless the operator or property owner voluntarily and immediately ceases operation.

In 2006, Riverside County amended its zoning ordinance when it adopted a ban on marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated county area. For the past several years, Riverside County officials have investigated suspected dispensaries and collected information about operations. The county has issued notices of violations when businesses were found to be operating illegally and has defended lawsuits by dispensary operators who challenged the ordinance.
 
With the authorization from the Board, county officials will use code-enforcement powers, and lawsuits as needed, to pursue dozens of illegal dispensaries within the county's unincorporated area. County officials also will seek to recover all administrative and legal costs unless dispensary operators or property owners immediately and voluntarily cease dispensary operations.
 
If federal law-enforcement officials become involved, it is possible that businesses' assets could be seized. If businesses are operating out of leased buildings, federal officials also might be able to seize  the property, including buildings.
 
County officials know of at least 36 dispensaries operating illegally within unincorporated Riverside County and more than a dozen have closed down in the past year.

The authorization to initiate legal action came on the Board of Supervisors' unanimous vote during closed session and was announced publicly before the Board began its afternoon session. The authorization was buoyed by a state appellate court ruling last month that upheld the City of Riverside's ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. The court determined that nothing in the state Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215) or other state law precludes local governments from banning dispensaries.

The ruling was issued by the Fourth District Court of Appeal's division in Riverside, which has jurisdiction over matters in Riverside, San Bernardino and Inyo counties.

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