In Walnut Creek, federal law is federal law, even if the Obama Administration decides not to enforce it.
As the manager of Walnut Creek’s lone cannabis club, C3 Collective, Brian Hyman says he does not have reason to celebrate this week’s announcement by the U.S. Justice Department that it will not enforce federal pot law in states that allow the sale of medical marijuana.
The C3 Collective is fined $500 a day by the city. That adds up fast. The club owes about $15,000 for being in the city’s cross hairs for a variety of reasons since it opened in June, including violation of a general nuisance clause in the city code that prohibits the operation of any organization that violates federal law.
“It’s really sad to see such a level of change and understanding and reflection and then to have our collective get put through the ringer,” said Mr. Hyman, 25.
In June, the C3 Collective managed to get its business permit and open shop without much fanfare, though city officials said that there was no indication that marijuana would be sold. The group described itself as a holistic wellness center, said city attorney Paul Valle-Riestra. When the collective applied for a city permit to knock down two walls, however, city officials began to take notice. Walnut Creek passed a 45-day moratorium on dispensaries and soon after sued the collective.
Mr. Valle-Riestra said that C3 is in violation of an additional zoning code that prohibits any use that is not specifically authorized.
“They knew from the outset it wasn’t something the city allowed,” Mr. Valle-Riestra says. “It’s typical of suburban and non-urban cities not to permit dispensaries.” The city plans to continue to fine the collective and in the near future go to court to seek a preliminary injunction that will force the collective to shut its doors.
The case of C3 is the kind of loophole that supporters of medical marijuana worry about after the Justice Department’s decision. Also this week, a federal judge ruled that Los Angeles moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries is invalid.
Both situations raise the question whether and how cities and counties will manage medical marijuana dispensaries in the future.
By Anna Bloom