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San Diego pot dispensaries can be evicted, judge rules

Medical marijuana dispensaries are not legal anywhere in San Diego under city zoning laws and therefore can be evicted by a landlord, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

November 08, 2011|By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

A landlord in San Diego can evict a medical marijuana dispensary because under city zoning laws, pot dispensaries are not legal anywhere in the city, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Ronald Prager, in a decision released Monday, said it was permissible for Kimber Investment Group to evict the Medibloom dispensary from the building that the investment group owns in a Rancho Bernardo shopping center.

"Cities ... are the arbiter of zoning laws," Prager wrote. "There's no place in the city of San Diego, including the shopping center in Rancho Bernardo, where a medical marijuana dispensary is a permissible use. It is therefore illegal."

In his decision, Prager also noted that neighbors have complained about increased crime since the dispensary moved in.

The San Diego City Council passed a zoning ordinance for medical marijuana dispensaries, but marijuana activists found it too restrictive and mounted a successful petition drive to put the issue to a public vote.

Rather than put the issue on the ballot, the council rescinded the ordinance. The result has been to strengthen the city attorney's aggressive stand to force marijuana dispensaries out of the city.

Federal prosecutors also have stepped up enforcement of federal law that criminalizes possession of marijuana.

City Atty. Jan Goldsmith noted that "building owners have been put on notice by the U.S. attorney that they must remove these illegal dispensaries or risk loss of their buildings under asset forfeiture."

Prager's decision, he said, removes the legal argument that dispensaries are permissible in San Diego under state law.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana advocates have filed lawsuits to stop U.S. attorneys in California from shutting down pot dispensaries. On Tuesday, they plan to seek temporary restraining orders.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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