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Judge halts pot sales at clinic in downtown until at least March 25
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A security guard last week checked out identify cards outside the downtown Manteca pot clinic at 311 E. Yosemite Ave. that a judge on Tuesday ordered to cease sales of marijuana until at least March 25. - photo by Bulletin file photo
Those hoping to score their medicinal marijuana in downtown Manteca are going to have to wait.

On Tuesday morning, San Joaquin Superior Court Judge Lesley Holland granted the City of Manteca a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order against Quick N’ Easy Cooperative Markets – a business at 311 W. Yosemite Avenue that police officials believe is operating as a marijuana dispensary.

Owner Lynn Smith of Stockton and his Oakland-based attorney Robert Shantz will appear before Holland again on March 24 to determine whether the business will continue.

Deputy City Attorney Don Lupal argued on behalf of the City of Manteca.

According to the language in filed court papers, the business cannot “sell, offer for sale, store, manufacture, possess or give away marijuana” between now and the next scheduled court hearing. The temporary restraining order is set to expire of March 25.

While police allege that the business is operating as a dispensary, the sign on the door and the official name listed on court documents claim that it is a cooperative – a business model where people united for a communal purpose with membership granted to all members approved to become a part of the unified community.

The District Attorney’s office has reportedly stated that that if the business is operating a true cooperative, they will not seek prosecution against those involved with the business.

California voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996 to allow for individuals that have received a valid prescription from a licensed medical doctor or the patient’s primary caregiver to possess and cultivate marijuana for medicinal use. Marijuana aids patients afflicted with AIDS and cancer to regain their appetite and those suffering from chronic pain with something different than the opiate-based prescriptions that are commonly used.

But the federal government still doesn’t formally recognize the decisions of individual states to allow for marijuana – listed as a prohibited Schedule 1 drug in the Controlled Substances Act – to be used as a medicine even if it is approved by the doctor. The Obama administration has said that going after dispensaries was extremely low on their list of priorities, but followed in the steps of the Bush Administration in upholding the federal position.

The distinction isn’t lost on City Attorney John Brinton.

In an earlier interview with the Bulletin, Brinton was quick and to-the-point about what he hopes to see comes out of the legal wrangling that will pick-up again towards the end of the month.

“We are seeking to abate it as a nuisance,” Brinton said. “To dispense a controlled substance is a violation of federal law.”

Manteca Police Captain John Orcutt and Sergeant Danny Erb – who served on the MCOPS as an undercover drug investigator – were both in attendance for Tuesday’s proceedings, and spent roughly 15 minutes chatting with Lupal outside of the courtroom about how to proceed next in the case as the City Attorney’s office and the Police Department prepare for the upcoming hearing.

Smith and his lawyer departed the courtroom quickly after the submitted motion by Lupal was approved by Holland in his chambers. They spent several minutes talking out on the courthouse steps.

Under Proposition 215, cities have the option of allowing pot collectives or banning them. Nearly half of the state’s cities have done so. What cites have allowed is varied. There are four pot dispensaries licensed by the City of Oakland, more than 20 in Redding, and close to 900 in Los Angeles.

The Manteca City Council late last year at two separate meetings maintained stony silence when a resident asked under citizens comments for Manteca to allow pot dispensaries as he had to drive in Oakland to get marijuana to deal with a series of work-related injuries.