From: Lanny Swerdlow
Director, Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project
On Thursday afternoon two gentlemen from Riverside County visited my house in White Water and handed me a summons to notify me that I had been named in a lawsuit filed by the city of
Riverside to close down the collective operating in Riverside which the lawsuit listed as the
THCF Health and Wellness Center. I was not surprised that a lawsuit had been filed - what stunned me was that I was the only person named in it.
In the article in the Press Enterprise, it states that Riverside City Attorney Greg "Priamos
said that simply issuing recommendations for medical marijuana isn't a problem, but the city is going after both facilities because officials believe they are one operation, with Swerdlow as the operator."
Obviously someone in Riverside County hasn't done their homework. The clinic and the collective are totally separate with no legal or fiscal connections. The actual work of running the collective is overseen by William Sump. I continued to oversee the operations of the THCF Medical working alongside Dr. Paul Ironside who provides qualified patients with their recommendations.
The lawsuit filed by the city of Riverside does not allege that the collective is doing anything not in compliance with the AG Guidelines. It is only alleging that the collective is violating a city zoning ordinance that bans the operation of "a facility where marijuana is made available for medical purposes in accordance with Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 (Proposition 215)." This definition is so overbroad that it arguably bans even cultivation in a patient's private home and certainly a home in which a patient may be growing for other patients.
In any case, violating a zoning ordinance is a civil offense, not a criminal offense. You do not arrest, confiscate and imprison a person for violating a civil ordinance. You serve them a summons like the city of Riverside has done and you duke it out in court and may the party with the best arguments win.
We are not afraid of fighting for patient rights in a civil court - in fact we welcome it as we believe we are legally right and the city is legally wrong and we will win. What concerns us is the possibility of a raid such as collectives have recently experienced in San Bernardino County. I have spoken with one of our attorneys who is of the opinion that this is not likely to happen although he admits that Riverside County DA Rod Pacheco and Riverside City Attorney Priamos move in strange ways.
So what are we going to do?
First off, we are consulting with a number of attorneys as to what this lawsuit is all about and how we should best respond. We will be answering the lawsuit within the 30 days given to us to respond. We will be denying all allegations of violating any ordinance and claim that the city's ban on collectives violates the rights of patients to form them as provided for in SB 420.
Most importantly the collective will be staying open providing member patients with medicine and the clinic will be open providing prospective patients with their recommendations and current patients with their renewals.
The Press Enterprise article was a good start in letting the public know what is going on and
how the city is refusing to license and regulate collectives and instead has created a Wild West free-for-all. But most importantly, we need to let the people of Riverside and the Riverside City Council know that wasting tax payer money and city employee time drafting voluminous lawsuits to close collectives is wrong, wrong, wrong. Instead, tax payer money and city employee time should be used productively to draft a medical marijuana collective ordinance that will provide local access to patients and do so in way that causes no problems for the city or its residents.
The way to bring that about is to use our rights under the U.S. Constitution which guarantees
"the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." We have grievances and we are going to let the Riverside City Council know about them on Tuesday, June 1 at 6:30 p.m. where we will assemble one of the largest groups of people ever to attend a Riverside City Council meeting.
Our elected officials are well aware that general public supports medical marijuana and that
they support licensed and regulated access to medicinal marijuana. The refusal of our elected
officials to recognize this and instead kowtow to Riverside City Attorney Priamos's reefer
madness mentality is both counter-productive and a slap in the face to Riverside city residents and the voters of California.
Watch here for updates on what is happening with the collective and the clinic,
but right now circle Tuesday, June 1 and write in 6:30 p.m. and be at Riverside City Hall at
3900 Main Street, Riverside 9255 to demand your right to safe, reliable and local access as well as the respect that you so rightfully deserve.