Final Hours for Fresno's Pot Dispensaries?

October 8, 2009 12:30:56 AM PDT
Fresno's medical marijuana businesses are just hours away from getting shut down by a judge.The city filed a lawsuit to force all nine local pot dispensaries to close and if a judge sticks to his tentative ruling from Wednesday, they won't be allowed to sell another joint.

The cookies, candies and drinks at California Herbal Relief Center are packed with more than sugar and spice. The treats are full of marijuana and that's why the city of Fresno wants to shut down the business.

"Cities have a right through zoning ordinances or moratoriums to control what happens in their cities," said Doug Sloan, of the Fresno city attorney's office.

The city claims marijuana businesses are a nuisance because they violate federal law, even though California voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 1996.

"The war against medical marijuana is over and we won," said attorney William Logan, who represents Medmar Clinic, one of the nine dispensaries. "And now, here we are 13 years later, still trying to get medicine to patients."

About 800 patients buy pot from CHRC, but owner Sean Dwyer says each of them goes through a thorough screening before they get anything.

"My father, who's a retired police officer, helped me set this up to make sure we followed the law to the T," he said.

If the city shuts down businesses like his, Dwyer said, that screening goes out the window and many patients will turn to gang members and crooks to get relief.

"The real winners in that would be the drug dealers and the drug cartel because rather than being able to get their medicine from us legally, they'll be forced to buy it illegally off the street," said Dwyer.

But unlike some other businesses police point to as sources for trouble, pot dispensaries have no special protection.

"With respect to topless bars and adult bookstores, the Supreme Court has found there are some First Amendment protections there," said Sloan, from the city attorney's office. "No court has ever found any Constitutional protection for marijuana."

Judge Alan Simpson is expected to issue a temporary restraining order against the dispensaries Thursday. But he expects the case to eventually be land in a higher court.

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