Thursday, April 19, 2012
Court of Appeal Upholds Shutdown of Local Marijuana Clinic
Justices Say Facility Operator Implicated in Multiple Incidents of Illegal Activity Not a ‘Primary Caregiver’
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has upheld an order shutting down a medical marijuana dispensary that straddles the Los Angeles/Culver City boundary.
Div. Two yesterday ordered publication of a March 26 opinion by Justice Victoria Chavez. The panel said Jeffrey K. Joseph, who represented himself, presented no evidence that would have entitled him to a trial in the nuisance abatement action brought by the city attorneys of both cities, so summary judgment and a permanent injunction were properly granted.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson, who issued the injunction, that Joseph had no defense under Proposition 215 or the Medical Marijuana Program Act. The injunctions prohibits Joseph and Organica from unlawfully selling, serving, storing, keeping, manufacturing, or giving away controlled substances, including marijuana, anywhere in Culver City or the City of Los Angeles, and from using Organica, Inc.’s business license and tax registration certificate to engage in such activities anywhere in Culver City or the City of Los Angeles.
Johnson also granted judgment for $325,829.75, consisting of $130,000 in civil penalties, $88,165 in attorney fees, $106,549.75 in investigative costs, and $1,115 in court fees.
Chavez, writing for the Court of Appeal, noted that Joseph and the clinic, called Organica, had a history of involvement with illegal drugs. She cited 13 incidents that occurred between 2008 and 2010, including purchases of marijuana by undercover officers; the discovery of marijuana, along with other illegal drugs, in searches by the Drug Enforcement Administration; several police stops of vehicles near the clinic, resulting in seizure of illegal drugs, which the occupants said they obtained at Organica; and a traffic stop in Riverside in which Joseph was found in possession of psilocybin, hashish, and brownies believed to contain marijuana, and a passenger was found in possession of cocaine.
The MMPA, Chavez wrote, protects the cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes. “It does not cover dispensing or selling marijuana,” nor does it permit a clinic to operate for purposes of profit.
A “primary caregiver,” the jurist acknowledged, may collect reasonable expenses incurred in providing marijuana to qualified medical marijuana patients. But Joseph failed to qualify, she said, because he presented no evidence that any patron had designated him their caregiver, that he had assumed responsibility for the wellbeing of any of them, or that Organica had a license to operate as any kind of health or care facility.
The vast majority of patients, the justice further noted, came from outside the area in which it operated.
It was also clear from the evidence, Chavez wrote, that Organica was being used by Joseph to conduct illegal activities.
The jurist explained:
“On multiple occasions, undercover law enforcement officers purchased marijuana at Organica’s premises. Menus listing the varieties and prices of marijuana available for sale were prominently displayed at the premises. An officer observed Joseph assisting an Organica customer with a purchase. In three separate warranted searches of Organica’s premises, law enforcement officers recovered 155.1 kilograms of marijuana, 698 marijuana plants, 488.9 gross grams of marijuana seeds, 43.9 gross grams of marijuana cigarettes, 22.8 kilograms of various edible products containing marijuana, and large amounts of cash.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs on appeal included Los Angeles Assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg, Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Anh Truong, Culver City City Attorney Carol A. Schwab, and Culver City Deputy City Attorney Lisa A. Vidra.
The case is People ex rel. Trutanich v. Joseph, B232248.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company