By Gary Walker
Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer filed a lawsuit last week to block a medical marijuana dispensary from opening in Mar Vista.
The move comes nearly a month after a community meeting in which a number of Mar Vista residents voiced strong opposition to the clinic proposed for 3472 Centinela Ave., a vacant storefront at the intersection of Centinela and Palms Boulevard.
On Nov. 8, a group of clinic opponents gathered for a protest outside the location.
The 59-page civil complaint filed against clinic proprietors and their landlord on Nov. 14 in Los Angeles Superior Court claims the business would violate voter-approved rules for marijuana dispensaries because of its close proximity to a residential neighborhood.
The suit seeks penalties of up to $2,500 per individual per day for anyone involved in operating a medical marijuana business at the location.
Targets of the lawsuit could not be reached for comment.
In May, voters approved a city ballot measure, Proposition D, that capped the number of dispensaries allowed in Los Angeles and imposed regulations about where dispensaries could be located.
The city “is working diligently to uphold the will of the voters” and “aggressively enforce the law,” Feuer said in a statement.
Proposition D bans all dispensaries except 135 that were already legally operating when the municipal law was passed but hampers officials from filing criminal actions until a dispensary opens in violation of the law.
The city attorney’s office has so far pursued more than 50 criminal cases against dispensary operators and related property owners accused of violating Proposition D, according to the office.
The civil case in Mar Vista represents a different — and more proactive — tact in enforcing the spirit of the measure, said city attorney’s office spokesman Rob Wilcox said.
“Up until now the city attorney has been enforcing Proposition D criminally … [but] criminal charges cannot be filed until a crime has actually been committed,” Wilcox said. “City Attorney Feuer has implored his office to be as creative and aggressive as possible to enforce this measure, and this civil action is another important step in those efforts.”
Nine of the 135 medical marijuana dispensaries that were grandfathered into law by Proposition D are located in Venice, Westchester, Playa del Rey and Marina del Rey zip codes.
There are four Venice dispensaries that have been targeted by Feuer’s office for criminal prosecution: Cal Med Access at 754 Washington Blvd., Tamer El Shaikhs at 904 Pacific Ave., Green Cure LLC at 1716 Main St. and Green Wells Collective at 724 Lincoln Blvd.
The office has also targeted Green Cross LAX at 5593 Manchester Ave. in Westchester and Westside Finest Collaborative at 3995 Inglewood Blvd. in Mar Vista.
Cal Med Access in Venice was among the first seven businesses that faced criminal misdemeanor charges for alleged municipal code violations in a round of charges filed in August.
Criminal violations of Proposition D are misdemeanors and are punishable by fines of up to $1,000 per day and six months in county jail.
Ken Alpern, a member of the Mar Vista Community Council and the co-chair of its land use and planning committee, took heart with expansion of marijuana dispensary enforcement into the civil court arena.
“I hope that means [Feuer] has greater ambitions to fix the marijuana Measure D,” Alpern said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin had pledged to fight the opening of the dispensary in Mar Vista.
“When I wrote to the owner of the proposed dispensary last month, I told him that a dispensary at this location would be illegal and would be met with strong and staunch opposition from the neighborhood, Mar Vista community, and from me and the city of Los Angeles,” the councilman said.
I’m thrilled that City Attorney Feuer is taking aggressive action to protect our communities, as Prop. D promised,” Bonin said.