RIVERSIDE (CBS) — Owners and operators of marijuana dispensaries in Riverside County’s unincorporated communities could find themselves in the cross-hairs of county attorneys, facing lawsuits if they don’t shut down immediately, it was announced Tuesday.
During its closed session, the Board of Supervisors authorized legal action against cannabis dispensaries to enforce the county’s 2006 ban against such operations.
There are 36 known dispensaries in the unincorporated areas.
As with most places throughout the state, the operations sprang up in response to Proposition 215, also known as the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which opened the door to legal medical marijuana distribution.
However, according to the Office of County Counsel, there’s nothing in the act that prohibits counties and municipalities from outlawing dispensaries.
That was the conclusion last month of the Fourth District Court of Appeals, which upheld the city of Riverside’s blanket ban on marijuana stores.
According to county Executive Office spokesman Ray Smith, county officials have investigated suspected dispensaries over the last few years and cited violators, some of whom have sued the county to challenge its ordinance against cannabis outlets.
“With the authorization of the board, county officials will use code enforcement powers, and lawsuits as needed, to pursue dozens of illegal dispensaries within the county’s unincorporated area,” Smith said in a statement.
He added that county attorneys will seek to recover costs stemming from any future litigation.
According to the county spokesman, there are no permitted medical marijuana dispensaries within unincorporated communities.
Federal authorities don’t recognize any storefront variety of cannabis cooperative as legal. The owner of two such operations in Corona and Perris was federally prosecuted last year, resulting in a six-month jail term and probation.
Only a few cities within the county, including Palm Springs, permit the activity.
Last December, the board dropped plans to forgo its ban and start regulating collectives. Supervisor John Benoit said at the time that allowing the dispensaries to operate, even under a tight regulatory scheme, would risk turning the county into a “dumping ground for medical marijuana dispensaries from throughout Southern California.”