In court Monday, the city argued that the council did not need to comply with a state law that requires certain steps to extend a zoning moratorium. Burge argued that it was a public safety, rather than a zoning, moratorium. Zoning moratoriums cannot be extended beyond 24 months. Chalfant quickly dispensed with that theory.
"Although there may be overtones of public safety," he said, "this is a zoning issue."
Besides failing to adhere to state law when it extended the ban, the city also failed to enforce it.
Hundreds of dispensaries filed applications for hardship exemptions from the moratorium, and many opened without permission. The City Council began to deny those requests this summer, which allowed city officials to file civil or criminal charges. None have been filed, however, and Berger said the city attorney's office now will not file charges until there is a permanent ordinance.
Green Oasis, which is on Jefferson Boulevard just west of the 405 Freeway, sought a hardship exemption in April and opened in May, without waiting for the City Council to act on the request. In July, the City Council denied the exemption. The city attorney's office notified Green Oasis that its operators faced civil and criminal violations, including a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. The dispensary sued last month.