Despite a city law forbidding its operation, a medical marijuana dispensary opened in downtown Galt.
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.
Still, the collective quietly opened last Tuesday in a nondescript building at 520 Lincoln Way, near the Galt Post Office.
Customers who meet the state's requirements for medicinal marijuana can have their prescriptions filled at the Galt Health & Wellness Center. A security guard watches over the small clinic and patients must have their orders processed by an employee shielded by bulletproof glass before they are allowed to enter a locked room where the marijuana is stored.
"Fifty to 75 people have signed up since we opened last Tuesday," said Katrina Mora, an employee at the center. "We have more and more signing up every day."
The dispensary is a nonprofit collective, meaning growers sell cannabis to the dispensary which in turn sells it on consignment to patients with a prescription for medical marijuana. The four employees who work at the dispensary are compensated, and it also raises enough money for rent and insurance.
City Attorney Steve Rudolph met with Attorney George Mull, who is representing the dispensary, on Thursday and asked him to shut down immediately, but the dispensary is still operating.
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 found out when the collective filed paperwork with the finance department last Tuesday saying they were in operation, he said.
Galt plans to file a temporary restraining order today, and Behrmann hopes a court will consider shutting down the collective by the end of the week.
"They came in and opened up," Behrmann said. "They caught us off guard."
If the city tries to shut down the dispensary, Mull said the dispensary plans to fight it in court. He regrets that his client did not approach the city before opening, but now they would like to work with the city to come up with reasonable regulations.
"Cities have the right to look after their interests … It's a very small place, good security, very healthy product. Anything anyone is concerned about, we've addressed," Mull said.
Patients at the clinic must sign a code of conduct limiting them to one visit per day and barring them from selling or distributing their medication to others or bringing recording devices such as cameras or cell phones into the building. The clinic reserves the right to terminate the membership of anyone who doesn't follow its rules.
The clinic also caps how much an individual can purchase each day. The largest amount of marijuana someone can purchase is an ounce, but Mora said she hadn't seen anyone purchase that much yet.
"Most of it is grams and eighths," she said.
The store sells a variety of strains of marijuana, as well as pre-rolled joints, hash oil and edibles such as cookies and brownies. The edible items are available to make it easier on those who aren't able to or don't like to inhale smoke, Mora said.
More inventory arrives every Friday, she said.
However, not everyone is pleased the dispensary is operating.
"My biggest issue is that is against city ordinance," said Pam Cuevas, owner of Galt In N' Out Smog Inc. "I had to go through five years of red tape to build this building and open up."
The dispensary doesn't benefit the community in any way, she said. While there have not been any problems with additional crime in the area since the dispensary opened up, Cuevas said, the police have been over there regularly.
"I think they are trying to get them to close the doors," she said.
Also pending is a court case that both the city and the collective are monitoring. The case, Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim, is before the 4th District Court of Appeal and could decide whether local cities and agencies can ban medicinal marijuana dispensaries.
Behrmann said that around the state pot shops are opening up and then waiting for the ruling from the court.
"These people are well aware of it," he said.
Mull said the members of the collective were ready to open the dispensary, and it was not tied to the court case.
He said Galt's ordinance is more restrictive than other cities because it bans someone from distributing marijuana to two people. Mull hopes the city will be willing to sit down and talk about the collective's future.
"I would hope they wouldn't waste the resources. There already is so much fiscal stress on cities, especially when there is no downside," he said. "I'm not sure what they are trying to protect people from."