The City Council decided Tuesday to take legal action against the first known storefront pot club in Mountain View, operated by a multimillionaire lawyer who says he is ready for a legal fight.
Lawyer Matt Lucero and his nephew Jesse opened a medical marijuana dispensary called Buddy's on April 10 in a warehouse at 2632 Bayshore Parkway. Its opening came as a surprise to city officials, and to other prospective pot club operators who believed the city would allow them to open dispensaries legally sometime in the next year.
City Council members met in closed session on Tuesday night to discuss a potential lawsuit meant to close the dispensary. The city considers the club to be illegal under a moratorium on pot clubs the council approved in February. City attorney Jannie Quinn said the council had decided to "initiate an action" against the pot club, but declined to say what that action would be until it actually happened.
If the city does move forward with legal action, "I am absolutely ready for them," Lucero said Wednesday. He said he believes state law supersedes the city's moratorium.
"We have very considerable financial resources and the backing of some really, really hard-hitting lawyers -- people who have won California Supreme Court cases," Lucero said. "We're going to stay."
Some of those financial resources may come from Lucero himself, who said he made his millions working as a lawyer for large tech companies. "I've been significantly a millionaire for many years," he said.
Originally from Staten Island, Lucero has lived in the county since 1988 and currently resides in Campbell. He said the dispensary isn't about making money or making a political point: "It's about getting medicine to people who need it -- people who are fighting AIDS and fighting cancer. I will absolutely continue to fight for the rights of the seriously ill residents of Santa Clara County."
The dispensary opened to the chagrin of prospective pot club operator Brian David, who wanted to work cooperatively with the city to open a pot club in the same Shoreline industrial neighborhood.
"Personally I feel he is breaking the law, and being an attorney does not make him above the law so he should be arrested, fined or both," David said in an e-mail. He added that pot club regulations could be approved by the council later this year, so he worried that the city would try to pass on a lawsuit against the dispensary.
Lucero said he picked Mountain View because it appeared that the City Council was relatively supportive of dispensaries. While a majority of council members supported the idea of allowing dispensaries in a February meeting, the council wanted more time to create regulations on them and placed a temporary ban on them starting in March. Because of that moratorium, the city had rejected an application for a business license by the operators of Buddy's.
The pot club's "discreet" location on Bayshore Parkway was selected in respect for concerns from city officials, Lucero said. "If you don't know it is here you are going to drive right by it, which is exactly how we want it," he said.
A look inside
The dispensary is located in a warehouse building that is partly used by Intuit for storage (Intuit has no connection to the pot club). On display in small jars are the various strains of marijuana for sale, which Lucero said are legally grown by collective members.
Inside, electronic music bounces off the pink walls and black-and-white floor. A large mural of the Virgin Mary is one of the first works by local artists that the collective hopes to have on display.
The place is well fortified: An alarm system uses laser beams to alert police to break-ins, heavy bars are installed over the windows, and soon security cameras will be installed.
Prospective club members are directed into a waiting room made from covered cyclone fence, where their doctor's notes are verified before a membership card is issued. Members are then allowed through a locked door into the dispensary.
"No one gets through that caged area unless we've verified their doctor's recommendation," Lucero said. "We do not distribute to non-members ever, ever."
The pot club had over 100 members join in the first week and took in $4,000 in sales, Lucero said.
Lucero said he hopes the pot club will be a "very positive community center" where artists can display their art and medi-pot users can take classes about how to grow their own marijuana. Buddy's is a nonprofit, and its surplus revenue will be available to local charities and other nonprofits, Lucero said.
According to Lucero, the dispensary has already been visited by Mountain View police, a building code enforcement officer, city attorney Quinn, city manager Kevin Duggan, planning director Randy Tsuda and council members John Inks and Tom Means.
"I assured them it would be lawful," he said.