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Judge Shuts Down L.A. Dispensary, Says Cash Sales Not Allowed

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Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 3:16 PM

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A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Friday ordered an Eagle Rock medical marijuana dispensary to stop selling weed and, in a first for a California judge, ruled that retail sales of the drug are not permitted under state law.

The preliminary injunction's view of pot sales are similar to those of State Attorney General Jerry Brown and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, whose office brought the nuisance case against Hemp Factory V after receiving complaints about the establishment. Assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg told the Weekly the city targeted Hemp Factory because its weed was found to have traces of pesticide.

Friday's ruling, Greenberg said, represented a "very clear unequivocal ruling that you cannot sell marijuana. I don't think any other court has said it with greater clarity."

She also said the ruling states that Hemp Factory's weed must comply with the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which requires certain testing, labeling, medical warnings and product information that virtually zero dispensaries provide with their pot. "The court said, 'If you are selling to the public, then this consumer protection law applies to you,'" Greenberg said.

The ruling does not exactly set a precedent -- usually higher, appellate courts set that bar -- but it does provide a basis for future precident and clarification on California's medical marijuana legislation, which allows for the collective cultivation of marijuana for the "seriously ill."

Brown, Trutanich, District Attorney Steve Cooley and other legal minds don't see how state law allows for over-the-counter sales of medical marijuana to anyone with a doctor's recommendation, although pro-marijuana activists say the law is vague enough to allow the kind of retail trade seen in L.A. The Los Angeles City Council recently addressed the quandary by limiting dispensaries to nonprofit cash transactions: They can only charge enough and earn enough to cover costs, and annual audits will be used to enforce the rule.

Assistant City Attorney Greenberg says she doesn't think Friday's ruling conflicts with the city's new law. "I haven't compared them side by side yet," she told the Weekly, "but I think we would read them together and not try to invalidate one or the other."

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