While the city's newly adopted medical marijuana ordinance awaits final approval from the California Coastal Commission, city attorney Jan Goldsmith has continued his legal assault on dispensary owners and the property owners who lease to them. Since the beginning of the year, more than seven lawsuits have been filed against medical marijuana dispensary owners as well as a handful of property owners.
On April 3, the city attorney's office filed yet another lawsuit, this time against Salam Razuki, owner of the United Wellness Center in San Diego's Mount Hope neighborhood, as well as the owner of the Stonecrest Plaza.
After receiving a complaint about the United Wellness Center, land-use investigator Leslie Sennett and building inspector Robert Cervantes went to 4284 Market Street to investigate. Once there, their suspicions were confirmed. They found a security guard keeping watch over the premises. The complaint then goes on to suggest that a number of under-age customers were inside the shop.
"Both inspectors observed several individuals inside the marijuana dispensary, including those that appeared to be juveniles. One such juvenile, who appeared to be 13 years old, left the marijuana dispensary concealing a small paper bag."
Days later, development services sent a "notice of violation" to the business, ordering Razuki to close shop. Less than three weeks later, on April 2, city attorney investigator Constance Johnson logged on to the internet to find the United Wellness Center still had a menu posted online. By the following day, the lawsuit had been written and filed with the San Diego Superior Court.
"Defendants are blatantly and willfully in violation of the [San Diego Municipal Code] and will continue to maintain the unlawful code violations in the future unless the Court enjoins and prohibits such conduct. Absent the relief requested by Plaintiff, the City is unable to enforce its zoning laws and therefore unable to ensure the compatibility between land uses for its residents…. Absent injunctive relief, the City will be irreparably harmed and the ongoing violations will continue to harm the public health safety and welfare."
In addition to demanding the dispensary close down for good, the city is asking the owner to pay $2500 for each day it was open since February 25, when investigators followed up on the complaint.
When asked about the latest lawsuit and whether the city attorney expects to file new complaints weeks before the ordinance will be voted on, spokesperson Michael Giorgino said, "If cases are forwarded to our office for enforcement, we will issue those cases if there is sufficient evidence to prove the case. We do not issue cases if they are not referred to us by Neighborhood Code Compliance. Since NCC is sending cases to us, enforcement is not being postponed. Neither the mayor nor the council have given any direction to postpone enforcement."