Michael Hawkins, an Army veteran stricken with a double-fist-sized brain tumor, pleaded with the City Council to reconsider its stance toward the medical marijuana dispensaries that operated in Lake Forest. “The tumor decimated my marriage and what I spent my life building,” the 60-year-old said, adding that marijuana reduced his pain. “Look into the eyes of the people who need medical cannabis, If that day ever comes for you, I’ll stand with you. Please stand with me.” More than 100 patients, caregivers and dispensary owners from across Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties besieged the City Council on Tuesday night to reconsider their decision to close the dispensaries. The protest was organized by Orange County NORML and OC Americans for Safe Access as a response to the city’s recent partnership with the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and a crackdown on eight medical-marijuana dispensaries in a strip mall on Raymond Way. “I’m glad people came out to support safe access, said Kandice Hawes, executive director of Orange County NORML. “This is serious. It’s the end of the line. It wasn’t right for them to call in the federal government. …It’s inappropriate to take something that is state law, and make it illegal. You’re driving people onto the streets. Why aren’t you protecting us?”
The protest follows Friday’s efforts by building owner Yousef Ibrahim to order the eight dispensaries in his Raymond Way building to shut down following federal seizure of his bank account. Ibrahim, who found out about the seizure from an article in The Orange County Register, issued a three-day abatement notice to avoid federal prosecution, said his attorney, Garfield Logan. Federal agents Saturday delivered asset-forfeiture summonses to some of the dispensaries, including the Independent Collective of Orange County and Cannabis Permanente, said attorney Damian Nassiri, who had defended them in their efforts to fight closure by the city of Lake Forest. According to Logan, five of the eight dispensaries closed Tuesday morning. The others closed later in the day, police said. “They’ve been very cooperative,” Logan said.
The Lake Forest City Council took no action following the public comments. The city will move forward with its present litigation efforts to close down all pot shops in the city. Two dispensaries remain open. The dispensaries at 26402 Raymond Way – Lake Forest Patients Group at Suite 201, Pharmers’ Choice at 202, Cannabis Permanente at 203, Evergreen Holistic at 206, Cooperative 207 at 207, Florentina Organic at 208, Independent Collective of Orange County at 209 and The Health Collective at 210 – were targeted Oct. 7 by the U.S. attorney general after efforts by the city to remove them continued to be tied up in legal battles. Andre Birotte, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, said his office targeted the Lake Forest dispensaries because the city had spent nearly $600,000 in legal fees trying to remove them. The city contends the dispensaries violate a zoning ordinance. On Oct. 6, federal prosecutors filed a forfeiture action against the eight storefronts in the two-story strip mall, alleging that eight of 11 suites on the second floor are occupied by marijuana stores. The property is across the street from a school that serves preschoolers and kindergartners.
Meanwhile, Nassiri and at least 10 other attorneys representing hundreds of medical-marijuana dispensaries in California met in Costa Mesa last week to rebut the federal government’s planned crackdown. Nassiri said the attorneys’ effort was meant to ensure the government would not be able to take away the rights of citizens to receive medical cannabis. Strategies discussed include demonstrations in Los Angeles and Riverside counties with patients calling for their right to medical marijuana. Nassiri said those protests are planned for next week. Ultimately, more than 100,000 patients are expected to rally later this year at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., he said.
via : The Orange County Register
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