Mountain View Voice

Opinion - April 30, 2010

City's first pot club already a hassle

The City Council can't be happy about Buddy's Cannabis Patient Collective, the new medical marijuana dispensary that opened April 10 on Bayshore Parkway near San Antonio Road.

In fact city officials were caught off guard when Buddy's popped up, particularly since council members last February passed a temporary moratorium on pot clubs designed to give them a chance to work on rules — expected to be completed later this year — controlling when and where such dispensaries operate. In effect, Buddy's is thumbing its nose at the city by its mere existence.

Now the city is considering new options, including finding a quick way (if there is one) to snuff out the not-for-profit club operated by wealthy Campbell lawyer Matt Lucero.

That option won't be easy. Lucero says his dispensary did $4,000 in business last week alone. He also says he is "absolutely ready" for the city, telling the Voice: "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 followed up that talk with a lawsuit, filed last Friday, that challenges Mountain View's moratorium on marijuana dispensaries and asks the court to prevent the city from closing his operation.

In advising the council to place a moratorium on dispensaries until new regulations are drawn up, acting city attorney Jannie Quinn may not have foreseen an aggressive operator like Lucero, who would like nothing more than to drag the city into a long and costly legal battle. But so far Quinn has not wilted under the heat, and the council has decided to move forward in attempts to shut Buddy's down.

Her specific legal strategy is not yet known — last week she said only that the council had agreed to "initiate an action," but would not reveal more details until a case was filed.

Given that Quinn and a host of other city officials, including police officers, the city manager and two council members, have visited the club and viewed its robust security and fortifications, it may be difficult to make a case that the drug is being sold to unauthorized users. And the club's out-of-the-way location could make it hard to claim Buddy's is a public nuisance.

Somewhat gallingly — galling because Lucero's combative stance has probably ruined much of the good will at City Hall — a majority on the council already supports granting licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries, a fact which will become clear once the city draws up its new regulations. But now the best course may be to accelerate the drafting of those regulations. Why not issue them in a month or two, rather than waiting to the end of the year?

Once they are issued, the temporary ban can be removed, which should help resolve an otherwise costly — and ultimately pointless — legal dispute with the city's first-ever medical marijuana dispensary.

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