Judge: MediBloom Dispensary Can Stay Open

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Jun 21, 2007
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MediBloom, the controversial marijuana dispensary in Rancho Bernardo, will be able to stay open after a judge ruled it was not violating facility regulations or state law.

The Bernardo Town Center Property Owners Association, which covers the Avena Place building where MediBloom has operated since the beginning of April, had filed suit against MediBloom, saying by violating federal drug laws, the dispensary was violating association regulations.

Judge John S. Meyer, however, in turning down the request for a preliminary injunction against MediBloom, said federal law does not political name state law and he did not want to get into a "philosophical debate" about whether the dispensary qualifies as a medical clinic. The association's regulations do permit medical clinics, but the association's attorney argued MediBloom is not one.

MediBloom's attorney, Lance Rogers, said he does believe the dispensary is a clinic, and it also would count as a private club, which is permitted under association regulations.

Meyer also said the association had not met the burden of proving the dispensary was a public nuisance, which would have skirted the drug law issue while getting the dispensary to close. Neighboring business owners have complained about break-ins and people hanging out in front of the dispensary. No marijuana was taken during the crimes, however.

The judge's ruling was made without prejudice, meaning the association can try again. Rogers, after Friday's hearing, said he hopes the two sides can come to an agreement about regulations, but "shutting down is not an option."

"I say that similar to a pharmacy, a medical marijuana collective is providing a critical medicine to seriously ill residents, not only in San Diego County, but also of Rancho Bernardo," Rogers said.

"It would be absurd to prosecute Walgreens as a drug dealer."

But association president, Ron Bamberger, said he "respectfully disagrees" with the judge and does not consider MediBloom to be a clinic.

"I think the judge is in error," Bamberger said. "It's bad for Rancho Bernardo."

Meyer said when the association crafted its regulations, in the mid-1970s, the issue of medical marijuana had not yet arisen and questioned how MediBloom, then, could violate the rules. The association argued that, because the regulations prohibit violating federal laws, they apply to anything counter to the law.

But because medical marijuana is legal in California, Meyer rejected the preliminary injunction, but without prejudice. This will give the association the opportunity to try again, likely leaning on new information about break-ins at the property that was submitted for Friday's hearing, but which Meyer said he had not read.

Bamberger said he was disappointed the judge had not read the new declarations. The association's attorney asked about receiving a continuance, to provide time for consideration of the new information, but Meyer said he did not know when he would have time to fit it in.

Erik Rynko, the director of MediBloom, said he was pleased with the ruling.

"We're happy to serve the members of the community," Rynko said.

Since opening, MediBloom has been under fire from nearby business owners who oppose having a medical marijuana dispensary in the area.

"Some of them have voiced their opinion that they don't want me in the building, but I think I have a right to be there," Rynko said.

During a recent Rancho Bernardo Community Council meeting, an attorney whose office is adjacent to the dispensary spoke about fearing for her safety and carrying a large flashlight to her car since MediBloom opened.

San Diego's 600-plus dispensaries have been in limbo since the City Council approved an ordinance restricting where they could operate. New zoning boundaries have not yet been settled, meaning dispensaries cannot yet get business permits. Rogers has acknowledged that MediBloom does not have a business permit. Recently, thousands of signatures were collected in opposition to the City Council ordinance, further complicating the issue.

Law enforcement offficials, citing lack of manpower and ambiguity surrounding dispensaries' legal status in San Diego, have said their hands are tied in dealing with the dispensaries, all of which are operating without proper permits.


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