Mountain View Voice

News - May 7, 2010

City aims to close 'scofflaw' pot club

May 28 hearing could decide if 'Buddy's' violated zoning regulations

by Daniel DeBolt

The city has filed an injunction to shut down a storefront marijuana dispensary in Mountain View known as Buddy's even as it works to create regulations to allow such businesses.

According to court papers filed April 28 at the City Council's request, the city says it is entitled to $1,000 a day in fines against property owner Mizrahi Building of Mountain View, LLC, named as a defendant along with the dispensary, for the continued operation of Buddy's, which opened on April 20 at 2632 Bayshore Parkway. The injunction request calls Buddy's Cannabis Patient Collective a "scofflaw medical marijuana dispensary" because it violates the city's building code, zoning ordinance, business license ordinance and the city's recently approved temporary ban on marijuana dispensaries.

Buddy's could be ordered to close at a court hearing scheduled for May 28, said interim city attorney Jannie Quinn. She would not comment further on the case, but said it was not going to delay her assignment from the City Council to draft regulations allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in Mountain View.

"We're trying to figure out how to do this as best possible for our residents," said Mayor Ronit Bryant, referring to the possible regulations. "We need the time to do that. It's really disappointing to not have people wait for us to figure this out and do the best job we can."

When asked if the injunction was worth starting a potentially costly legal battle for the city, Bryant said "We made certain decisions and we have to live by them. We decided on a process and we are continuing with that process. We're trying to run a well-regulated city."

Quinn said regulations are being drafted for council review in early June, just after the scheduled May 28 court hearing for Buddy's. Those regulations include possible zoning regulations on the location of pot clubs in the city, a possible limit on the number of pot clubs allowed in Mountain View, building security requirements and rules against using marijuana on the premises, Quinn said.

The city is seeking both a temporary and permanent injunction against Buddy's, which means a judge could decide at the May 28 hearing to shut down Buddy's temporarily before deciding whether to shut it down for good, Quinn said.

In the injunction request the city argues that "California appellate courts have recently upheld injunctions against marijuana dispensary operations on essentially the same grounds as those urged by the city here."

The filing notes two Southern California cases, City of Claremont v. Kruse in 2009 and City of Corona v. Naulls in 2008.

The owner of Buddy's, wealthy corporate lawyer Matt Lucero, hopes that Northern California appellate courts will have a different opinion. He believes state law allows medical marijuana dispensaries despite the city's regulations and he has hired outside legal counsel to handle a fight that he hopes will end up in state Supreme Court. He says he has also promised to reimburse his landlord for any fines the city imposes.

The city says Buddy's failed to apply for building and planning permits and was denied a business license the day before it opened. According to the court filing, a code enforcement officer found several code violations inside Buddy's that would have prevented building permits from being issued. A stairway and mezzanine are identified as "non-compliant with current codes, including the lack of a proper guardrail and/or handrail, and therefore...presenting hazardous life safety concerns."

Lucero said Monday that he is planning to launch a public relations campaign to illustrate how the collective has helped people in the area treat various ailments with marijuana. He says the collective now has over 300 members and has taken in $30,000 in "contributions." Lucero said he is now considering which local non-profits will receive any excess revenue.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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