David Lambert, Dana Point, Founder of Beach Cities Collective
Dana Point’s pursuit to eliminate medical marijuana dispensaries has been a waste of time and money as well as a massive violation of the public trust.
In 2009, Dana Point subpoenaed private patient information from six dispensaries operating in the city. After months of battling through Orange County Superior Court and the California Appellate Court, the California Supreme Court ruled the dispensaries were entitled to an appeal at which time the city dropped all the cases. The city then claimed the dispensaries were not permitted according to the municipal code and filed civil lawsuits.
Dana Point could have saved years’ worth of battling and wasteful spending had it shut these facilities down by simply enforcing the city code. Instead, the Dana Point City Council voted to spend taxpayers’ funds to sue these facilities and seek civil penalties from them.
In April 2011, an Orange County Superior Court judge ordered The Point Alternative Care to pay $1.9 million for violating the Health and Safety Code and Unfair Competition Law, and its owner to pay $41,100. Beach Cities Collective, and its founder, have judgments in favor of the city, in the amounts of $304,000 each, with appeals pending. In 2012, a California Appellate Court reversed a $2.4 million dollar judgment against Beach Cities.
On August 13, 2013, just prior to a trial by jury, Dana Point filed a notice of settlement with Holistic Health and agreed to a $1 million fine against the dispensary itself, and $40,000 dollar fine, which was $50,000, but Dana Point violated seizure laws and agreed to pay $10,000 in restitution to the owner of Holistic Health, according to the settlement agreement between the two parties.
The frequent claim, by City Attorney Patrick Munoz and staff, that Dana Point has millions in judgments apparently has diminished significantly.
Is it impossible to collect a debt from a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation that no longer exists? Dana Point has led the public to believe it can.
In March 2011, City Manager Doug Chotkevys recommended the city council increase their risk-management department budget by $410,000, adjusting the fiscal budget by decreasing Police Services by $115,000 and dropping salary and retirement benefits for city staff by $100,000. Let’s not forget, every medical marijuana dispensary had been shut down and were no longer in operation.
“We expect to recover much, if not all, of it,” Chotkevys told councilmembers.
November 2012, Munoz was quoted to have spent over $1 million litigating these three cases, the exact number has yet to be disclosed, and maintained that these cases are “money makers,” insinuating all the money that has cost Dana Point taxpayers will be justified. Decisions and comments like these are violations of the public trust.
From the beginning of this legal battle, Dana Point has portrayed these dispensaries as “for-profit illegal operations,” convincing the public and, more importantly, the city council that it’s in the city’s best interest to sue the dispensaries because there is money to be made. It’s a shame Dana Point has used taxpayer funds to pay Rutan and Tucker over $1 million—which could easily be closer $2 million—for legal services in the medical marijuana battle, when administratively, through code enforcement, they could have achieved their goal.
Good luck collecting $3.2 million from collectives that don’t exist. I wonder how much they have collected so far. Further, there is still a pending appeal.