SAN BERNARDINO >> At least 10 medical marijuana collectives represented by the same attorney plan to sue the city over its decision to double down on its dispensary ban, alleging that the action violated the state’s open-meeting law.
The lawsuits will be filed by Tuesday, the first business day after Friday, said Redlands-based attorney James DeAguilera.
“The city better have an explanation for doing this secretly, not putting this on the agenda,” DeAguilera said. “It doesn’t look like they do. … They’re going to have to explain it to a judge.”
City Attorney Gary Saenz didn’t return phone calls Thursday or Friday.
When Saenz announced at last Monday’s meeting that the city was reversing course on its examination of alternatives to a ban — including allowing some highly regulated dispensaries — he was clear that the examination and decision were made by the City Council without the public present, after the Legislative Review Committee had voted to send the discussion to the full council.
“During closed session within the committee, and closed session today with the full Common Council, alternatives and more aggressive methods of enforcement have been presented and discussed,” Saenz said then. “At this time, the full Common Council has, by consensus, determined that the city will continue its total land-use ban against dispensaries; will not, at this time, ordain to allow regulated dispensaries, and will incorporate additional and more aggressive methods of enforcement in our quest to rid, or significantly reduce, the number of illegal dispensaries operating in our city.”
State law allows city councils to meet in private only for certain specific purposes that must be listed on the agenda, including existing or anticipated litigation.
The agenda for Monday’s meeting lists a few of those for closed session discussion, but not marijuana specifically.
“There was no emergency — they’ve been operating in the open for a year, and (the committee was) discussing them for two months,” DeAguilera said. “Litigation? There’s been no lawsuits filed. And it’s certainly not a personnel matter. So what were they doing?”
DeAguilera further objects to the idea — which isn’t included in the city’s announcement but his clients have heard — that the city will begin charging operators with felonies.
“We’re hearing they’re asking that the close-down tactics be escalated to arresting people for illegal sales,” he said. “That is a felony. I don’t want any of my clients arrested on bogus felonies. If you’re running a medical marijuana operation, the only people you can dispense, distribute, sell marijuana to are those who have a valid (doctor’s) recommendation.”
San Bernardino’s study of alternatives to medical marijuana began with Councilman Jim Mulvihill requesting an update in June, then Saenz telling the council that its current enforcement efforts were ineffective and an alternative was needed. The legislative review committee, consisting of three council members, then considered the issue with public input. They decided in September to have the full council decide the issue, but before it reached open session the council reached Monday’s consensus.
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