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Calif. city tries to stop pot-on-wheels

/ Source: The Associated Press

A rolling marijuana dispensary has hit a bump in the road after seven months of selling chocolate-covered cookies, brownies, pretzels and other marijuana-laced items outside a clinic.

The Riverside County city of Norco has asked a court to permanently shut down the Lakeview Collective-on-Wheels, a 1985 Pace Arrow motor home outfitted with display cases.

Stewart Hauptman and his wife, Helen Cherry, say their collective complies with state law and attracts people with walkers and wheelchairs who use marijuana for medical reasons.

Authorities disagree and have shut down the motor home pending a June 1 Superior Court hearing on its fate.

"We don't perceive what they do as a collective," said John Harper, an attorney representing the city. "They sell marijuana out of a van. We've seen people, generally speaking, between the ages of 18 and 25 who appear to be in good health lined up outside there to buy marijuana."

City bans pot dispensaries

Despite a state law allowing for medical marijuana, Norco bans pot dispensaries and has cited the couple several times. Last week, the city of 27,000 asked a court for an injunction to permanently shut down the business.

Meanwhile, Cherry and Hauptman are still making home deliveries in a truck until the matter is resolved.

Cherry, 60, said she decided to open the nonprofit marijuana collective after she went to a Los Angeles clinic in 2008 to obtain the drug for chronic back pain.

"The paint was coming off the walls and (there were) bars on the windows and no medical equipment to be found. I was like, what the heck is this? This doesn't look legitimate," she said.

With the motor home parked at a medical marijuana evaluation clinic, patients could get their drug recommendation, walk outside, join the Lakeview collective and purchase the pot.

The Lakeview collective has about 700 members, some from as far away as Las Vegas, Cherry said.

"We really want to take care of patients. We're not looking for the 18-year-old stoners," Cherry said. "We have people coming in wheelchairs, in walkers."

California's 1996 voter-approved law legalized marijuana use for medical purposes, and local governments have been looking for ways to deal with a surge in medical marijuana dispensaries. Some communities have chosen to try to regulate, while others — including Norco — are trying to ban the drug altogether.

In Los Angeles, nearly two dozen medical marijuana collectives have sued Los Angeles to block enforcement of a new law that limits the number of dispensaries and could shut down dozens of them.

Four Orange County medical marijuana users have sued in federal court to prevent the cities of Lake Forest and Costa Mesa from closing dispensaries.

A state appeals court is looking at a similar lawsuit against the city of Anaheim.