A medical marijuana dispensary will remain open in Galt after a Superior Court of Sacramento County judge refused Thursday to issue a temporary restraining order.
At the hearing in Judge Rudolph Loncke's chambers, the city argued that the dispensary was in violation of zoning codes, and could be a health and safety issue.
The bulletproof glass and security guards indicate that members of the dispensary are worried about crime, said Jonathon Hobbes, who is a private attorney working with City Attorney Steve Rudolph.
"You shouldn't wait for something horrible to happen before enforcing city ordinances," Hobbes said.
The Galt Health & Wellness Center opened quietly on May 18 in a nondescript building at 520 Lincoln Way, near the Galt Post Office. Within a week, the dispensary had 75 to 100 people join.
George Mull, the attorney for the collective, argued that there are no links between dispensaries and increased crime.
The collective has also filed a lawsuit against the city because Mull said Galt acted unlawfully when it passed its marijuana ordinance. He said it goes against the will of the people when they passed Proposition 215, the medical marijuana law, in 1996.
"It's important for us to stand up and say why we have the right to operate … . We didn't have to pay attention to their illegal ordinance," Mull said.
Rudolph said he was disappointed with the judge's decision, and that the restraining order should have been issued.
Rudolph said the next step is to talk with the council at its meeting Tuesday night. He plans to recommend they file a motion to seek a preliminary injunction. He believes once a judge reviews the full facts of the case, they will make the dispensary comply with the city's ordinance and close.
Loncke said he was not determining the ultimate issues. He said there was not "sufficient showing of harm" that would be necessary to require closing the dispensary temporarily.
In July 2009, the city passed an ordinance outlawing any building or location where someone gives or sells medical marijuana to two or more patients with identification cards or primary caregivers.
Councilman Donald Haines said the city followed the proper procedure by creating an ordinance banning the dispensaries, and that Galt will keep fighting to get the business removed.
"This is why there is no real order in our society, because any judge can make a decision they see fit," Haines said. "His decision is in defiance of our ordinance and the spirit of what we were trying to do."
The Galt Health & Wellness Center is a nonprofit collective where growers sell cannabis to the dispensary, which in turn sells it on consignment to patients with prescriptions for medical marijuana.
The shop has four main growers in the area, but any patient that has extra marijuana can make it available, Mull said.
The dispensary has four employees. It can only raise enough money for rent, salaries and insurance.
Typically at the end of the year there is very little money left over, but if there is any, it will be given to local charities, Mull said. Mull said he feels the dispensary has received a positive reception in the community.
"The people of Galt are not the same as the City Council members who have refused to enter into any dialogue and said, 'We'll see you in court,'" Mull said.
Since the dispensary is a co-op, it did not have to apply for a business license, because technically they are not selling anything, City Manager Jason Behrmann said.
The city learned of the collective when organizers filed paperwork with the finance department on May 18, saying they were in operation, he said.
The thing that bothers Councilman Darryl Clare most is that he feels the dispensary has ignored Galt's regulations. Clare compared it to a gambling or prostitution business opening, which would also be forbidden under city code.
Mayor Randy Shelton said the city will continue with court action. He said it is an important issue because the outcome could set precedence for any future businesses. He said the council thoroughly considered the ordinance before passing it.
"It was not done for personal reasons, but what we believed would be best for our community now and into the future," Shelton said.
Mull became involved in the case when four people approached him about forming the collective. He said he could not give their names without permission.
Mull said he has a medical marijuana card so he can feel comfortable going into clients' businesses, and for a medical condition he said he did not want to talk about.
Mull was involved in a high-profile case in Lodi in 2003. He represented Timothy Kruppe, who owned two adult-oriented business.
They filed a suit challenging a city ordinance that required Kruppe's employees to undergo fingerprinting and background checks. The city settled the suit out of court.
Mull said he has also defended dispensaries in the past. He first spoke with the city on May 20 when Rudolph told him to shut down.
Since then, Mull had another meeting with the city where he said the dispensary asked to come up with reasonable restrictions on their operation instead of going to court. He said the city could limit the dispensary's hours or require certain security procedures, but the city refused.
Mull is pleased the dispensary will not have to temporarily close, because people are already depending on it.
He said on Tuesday that an older woman with Crohn's disease came in and said she lives near the dispensary. She told employees that she uses marijuana to cut down on the amount of prescription medications she uses.
"Galt is an isolated city," Mull said. "For an infirm person to drive to Sacramento or Tracy seems unreasonable."