A Superior Court commissioner on Friday granted a temporary restraining order against Cooperative Patients’ Services, said Jonathan Preston, the facility’s lawyer.
Temecula joins Riverside, Moreno Valley and Wildomar as Inland cities seeking judicial help to shutter medical marijuana establishments. A California Fourth District Court of Appeal judge last week allowed Wildomar Patients Compassionate Group to reopen for the time being.
While voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana in California, many Inland cities such as Temecula have outlawed dispensaries within their borders. Medical marijuana advocates say those bans violate state law.
Leaders of the Temecula facility maintain they don’t run a dispensary or sell marijuana, but provide a venue for legitimate medical marijuana patients to exchange their medicine with one another.
They say the money exchanged only covers the costs of production and that members, not the facility, own the marijuana.
The establishment has roughly 900 members, most of whom are from the Temecula area, leaders say.
In papers filed with Riverside County Superior Court last Wednesday, a lawyer with the city’s legal firm of Richards, Watson & Gershon alleged that the facility, which opened in January and operates from an Old Town Front Street commercial building, is selling marijuana in “complete and brazen disregard” of Temecula’s laws and policies.
“Presumably, because it is in the business of selling marijuana CPS believes it can simply bypass the city’s rules and regulations,” the documents state. “It cannot.”
The establishment misled the city when applying for a business license by being deliberately vague in its application, the city argues, adding that the license clearly states that dispensaries are forbidden.
The city’s legal filing names as defendants the facility and its landlord, Evergreen Ventures, a company registered in Nevada.
The city wants the court to bar the establishment from selling or providing marijuana, operating without a valid certificate of occupancy or tax permit and “maintaining public nuisances” on its property.
Evergreen also should be barred from “assisting, encouraging, aiding or abetting CPS’s (sic) sales or provision of marijuana,” court documents state.
The legal papers included 24 exhibits, such as a written declaration from a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Eric Hernandez, who said he saw an undercover officer leave the facility last month with about 3.8 grams of marijuana.
The officer bought the marijuana for $50, Hernandez wrote.
The sergeant’s account “left out a lot of the facts,” Preston said. Members of Cooperative Patients’ Services must sign forms showing they understand the rules and acknowledging that the facility isn’t selling them anything, he said.
Other exhibits detailed police encounters with people who allegedly bought marijuana at the establishment. One of those stopped said he paid $50 to make three or four marijuana cigarettes, according to a report filed by a deputy.
“Through my training and experience, I know that it does not cost $50 to produce the small amount of marijuana to make three or four” cigarettes, the deputy wrote, adding that the suspect said he only bought marijuana at the establishment and did not share in any of its duties.
“It is my belief that (the facility) … is making profit on sales of marijuana,” the deputy wrote.
Preston said Cooperative Patients’ Services will consult with another attorney as it plans its next step.
He said there will be a challenge to the restraining order because the commissioner should have referred the matter to a judge.
A hearing on the preliminary injunction is set for June.
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