Council extends dispensary moratorium |

Council extends dispensary moratorium

Adam Jensen

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A possible legal challenge to the city council’s extension of a moratorium on the opening of new medical marijuana dispensaries in South Lake Tahoe may allow additional dispensaries to open.

The council unanimously approved the extension of the moratorium until Nov. 16, 2011 at their meeting on Tuesday.

The council enacted the emergency moratorium Nov. 17, 2009 to allow the city more time to study how to regulated dispensaries. Tuesday’s extension is the last available to the city.

But former City Attorney Jacqueline Mittelstadt said she intends to challenge the moratorium on behalf of Chris Ziegler, the operator of a medical marijuana group called Mountain Collective.

The collective, which has operated out of Ziegler’s home, has met the requirements to be considered an “established operation” and be exempt from the moratorium, Ziegler said.

But the city disagrees. the assistant city manager denied Ziegler’s initial application for an exemption to the moratorium. Former City Manager David Jinkens upheld an appeal by Ziegler.

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A July 16 letter from City Attorney Patrick Enright to then City Manager David Jinkens questioned whether Ziegler was operating a dispensary prior to a Nov. 1, 2009, deadline required to be exempt from the moratorium.

During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Rick Angelocci said Ziegler’s application was denied because he did not have an active permit with the city and was operating the dispensary out of his home.

The language of the moratorium is unclear and the overriding requirement for an exemption under the moratorium was that Ziegler was providing medical marijuana to qualified patients as a primary caregiver under California’s medical marijuana laws, Mittelstadt said.

The attorney said she will seek an injunction against the moratorium in an upcoming legal challenge.

If a judge rules in favor of an injunction, more dispensaries could be established in the city while the case is proceeding, Mittelstadt said.

Ziegler said he has been frustrated by the city’s response to his requests and contends his concerns were “punted down the road” since he began working with the city regarding Mountain Collective in May 2009.

If he is successful in the legal challenge, Ziegler said he intends to make the collective the anchor for a property he manages, the “Eco-Green Center” at 1184 Emerald Bay Road.

The center would also include environmentally-friendly hotel rooms, a bakery and a community vegetable garden, Ziegler said.

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