Originally published February 19 2013
Marijuana dispensaries sue Long Beach police for illegal, unconstitutional actions to put them out of business
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) We here at Natural News didn't think it would be long after voters in the states of Washington and Colorado approved measures legalizing possession and use of marijuana in November before the lawsuits would start.
In the weeks following passage of the measures, the Department of Justice announced it was considering suing both states over their new laws, since marijuana possession and use remains a federal crime.
Other suits; however, are focused more on state and local jurisdiction, such as one filed by a number of marijuana collectives in the state of California. They have filed action against the police department for what they say are unconstitutional attempts to put them out of business, according to Courthouse News Service.
Nine collectives, along with two other men, have filed suit against the Long Beach Police Department, seeking an injunction and damages for Fourth Amendment violations and "judicial deception," according to court documents.
City using zoning laws and other tactics to shutter collectives: Complaint
Green Earth Center, the lead plaintiff, filed a federal suit against five of the department's officers, claiming that David Strohman, Oscar Valenzuela, Aldo Decarvalho, Chris Valdez and Douglas Luther conducted warrantless raids and otherwise searched their businesses with defective warrants that did not contain affidavits. The suit also claims the five officers secured some warrants by deceiving judges and then used the illegal raids to drive them out of business.
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, which made it legal to use medical marijuana under certain circumstances. Marijuana has since been prescribed to patients suffering from a variety of medical conditions, including glaucoma, as pain relief for cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS.
The collectives are charging that they were already in operation before Long Beach authorities attempted to regulate them through a zoning law known as Chapter 5.87.
City officials reportedly informed the collectives that they had to enter a lottery to obtain one of a limited amount of permits in order to remain in operations.
"However, there is no provision in Chapter 5.87 for a lottery system. Chapter 5.87 provides that if the applicant demonstrates compliance with all of the requirements, a permit shall be approved and issued. Chapter 5.87 was amended multiple times, ultimately allowing only twenty-four collectives to service the medical marijuana needs of over [a half-] million persons," the complaint says.
The collectives, in their 39-page complaint, also say the California Court of Appeals has already found that the city's zoning law was unconstitutional and pre-empted by federal law.
"Upon remand, the city elected not to remove the invalid provisions, and instead implemented a complete ban of all medical marijuana collectives," said the complaint.
The medical marijuana providers also said any ban is also pre-empted by state law, citing three 2012 rulings from California appeals courts and one Superior Court.
Nevertheless, they maintain the city is still trying to close them down.
Raids are plenty but arrests are few
"The defendants have systematically engaged in warrantless searches, warrants secured by judicial deception; administrative citations to the collectives and their landlords and other oppressive tactics, in an orchestrated scheme to close the collectives by any means in violation of the collectives' statutory rights," the complaint said.
The plaintiffs say that at first, Long Beach authorities cited employees and owners of the collectives as public nuisances, but when that tactic failed to gain steam, police began raiding collectives without warrants or, in at least one instance, through a warrant secured by officers claiming it was operating for a profit.
"A medical marijuana collective is a group of qualified patients or caregivers who share or are motivated in a common interest. Medical Marijuana Cooperatives are non-profit organizations that are created by cultivators, an aggregate group of patients, or both to provide medical-grade marijuana to qualified patients," says this description of collectives from Proposition 215 Attorney, a website explaining how the groups can operate.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs "cite more than a dozen raids, during which armed police officers arrested volunteers and seized marijuana, money, equipment and patient records," said Courthouse News Service.
After the raids, "many collectives closed their doors," the complaint says, adding that police have conducted 100 such raids "yet seldom arrest anyone."
There will most likely be more suits - and countersuits - over marijuana use in the coming years, especially if state laws remain in conflict with federal laws over the issue.
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