City of Lake Forest Wins Case Prohibiting Illegal Marijuana Stores; Judge Affirms City’s Right to Enforce Land Use and Zoning Decisions

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In 1996, California voters passed the Compassionate Use Act, which allowed patients under doctor's care to obtain marijuana for personal use. Recently, marijuana stores have proliferated across the state creating a retail trade that is specifically prohibited by State and Federal Law. Because of crime and other nuisances created by these stores, many cities prohibit marijuana stores through their municipal code. Lake Forest sought to close 10 such stores. The trial court has affirmed the city's right to prohibit these stores. This has statewide implications as many California cities are struggling with ways to eliminate or limit the proliferation of marijuana stores.

“The big story in all this is that Lake Forest is allowed to enforce its land use plan and this ability is not superseded by the Compassionate Use Act, consistent with a recent State of California 2nd District Appellate court decision (City of Claremont

Orange County Superior Court Judge David Chaffee granted the City of Lake Forest a preliminary injunction to close ten marijuana stores which are operating illegally in the city (Case No: 30-2009-00298887-CU-MC-CJC Superior Court of California, County of Orange). In his ruling, Judge Chaffee found that marijuana stores operating in Lake Forest are a public nuisance as they are in direct violation of land use regulations per the Lake Forest Municipal Code. Judge Chaffee further stated that it is illegal for cities to pass regulations that allow businesses to violate state or federal law, per Government Code Section 37100. This directly applies to marijuana stores since the Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I “controlled substance” and prohibits the use of this drug for any purpose.

Judge Chaffee’s ruling makes it clear that it is illegal for Lake Forest to enact zoning ordinances or other land use regulations that permit activities or businesses that violate federal or state law – including marijuana stores, medical marijuana dispensaries and storefront collectives. If the ruling is appealed, and a court of appeal upholds the ruling, it would be precedent setting for other cities in California.

“We’re very pleased the courts have ruled in our favor. This entire case was about the city’s right to enforce its zoning ordinance on behalf of the people of Lake Forest,” said Mayor Peter Herzog. “This sends a clear message to marijuana store operators and commercial property owners that these activities are illegal and will not be tolerated in the community, and any future operations like the ones in existence today will be immediately closed.”

According to Lake Forest’s litigation attorney Jeffery Dunn, “The big story in all this is that Lake Forest is allowed to enforce its land use plan and this ability is not superseded by the Compassionate Use Act, consistent with a recent State of California 2nd District Appellate court decision (City of Claremont v. Kruse). We have prepared a proposed order to be signed by Judge Chaffee calling for the immediate closure of all marijuana stores in the city.”

The ruling grants the City’s motion for preliminary injunction to close 215 Agenda (now operating as Bulzi RX), Lake Forest Community Collective, Vale Tudo Café, Lake Forest Wellness Center and Collective, GGECO (now operating as Care Mutual), Earth Cann, New Amsterdam, The Health Collective, Lake Forest Patients Collective Association and Orange County Independent Collective. The closure of these stores will also put an end to associated health and safety issues, referred to as secondary effects.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department - Special Investigations Bureau Lieutenant Adam Powell said, “We’ve consistently seen the adverse effects of marijuana storefronts throughout Orange County and the City of Lake Forest. These include robberies, burglaries, drug dealing, money laundering, and firearms violations. In addition, a community’s quality of life is negatively affected by loitering, increased traffic, noise, and use of medical marijuana at or near the facilities.”

This ruling comes on the heels of the April 30 ruling by Federal Judge Andrew Guilford denying a preliminary injunction seeking to prevent Lake Forest from shutting down marijuana stores. In that case, the Plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives disabled citizens a federally protected right to use medical marijuana. The Court found that the ADA does not apply because marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance and under the Controlled Substances Act, it currently has no medical purpose.

The City has taken no position relative to the use of marijuana for personal medical use by seriously ill individuals where the medical use is deemed appropriate by a physician.

The City of Lake Forest, California, a suburban community of 78,000 located in south Orange County. Police Services are provided, via contract, by the Orange County Sheriff's Department. A copy of Judge Chaffee’s ruling is available at http://www.lakeforestca.gov/ChaffeeRuling.

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Debra Rose
The CIty of Lake Forest
949-461-1314
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Meg Waters
Waters and Company, Inc.
949-584-4977
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