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City in Riverside County tries to put brakes on mobile pot shop

Norco officials seek an injunction against the Lakeview Collective-on-Wheels, a dispensary that was operating out of an RV parked at a clinic where patients can get medical marijuana prescriptions.

April 27, 2010|By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times

Riverside County businessman Stewart Hauptman's latest venture gives new meaning to the term "recreational drugs": selling medical marijuana from a souped-up RV parked outside a Norco clinic.

He refurbished the motor home, installing display cases, several seats and other amenities. The Lakeview Collective-on-Wheels operated from a lot outside a clinic where people were being evaluated for medical marijuana use.

"That way, when patients come out of the clinic, they are able to get the medicine right away," said Hauptman, a videographer-turned-cannabis-entrepreneur.

But the city of 27,000, which bans the distribution of marijuana, went to court last week seeking an injunction to shut down Hauptman's business, which has been cited several times since it opened in October.

"We'll take whatever proper legal action is needed to get them to cease," said John Harper, an attorney representing the city.

Hauptman and his wife, Helen, said they are being persecuted for trying to provide a humanitarian service. Most of their clients are elderly, many confined to wheelchairs and using walkers, they said.

"These are not young kids who go out and get stoned; this is not about that," Hauptman said. "These are older people, some dying from cancer."

But Norco officials say the couple's portrayal of their clientele does not match police observations.

"We've seen people, generally speaking, between the ages of 18 and 25 who appear to be in good health lined up outside there to buy marijuana," Harper said.

A landmark 1996 voter initiative legalized marijuana for medical use in California, but the question of whether cities are legally entitled to ban distribution is pending before state appeals courts. Medical marijuana advocates say state law allows cities to regulate the trade but not ban it. Officials from Norco and other cities say local governments may outlaw dispensaries.

A hearing on whether to permanently shut down the Hauptmans' business is scheduled for June 1 in Riverside County Superior Court.

The Hauptmans said their business is legal — and essential. It features marijuana-laced brownies, cookies, pretzels and other items that cost about $10 a serving. Marijuana sells for about $450 an ounce. But official pressure has forced the mobile cannabis store to shut down for now, the couple said.

The Hauptmans are now delivering marijuana to clients' homes, but not with the RV.

"We're using a truck," Helen Hauptman said.

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