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Legality of county-approved pot clubs in question

A Sonoma County Superior Court judge's ruling last week invalidating the county's medical marijuana club use permit ordinance has provoked a showdown over a controversial club in the center of Guerneville.

The dispute also raises questions about the legality of the only other only other pot dispensary outside city limits, which is south of Santa Rosa, and two proposed dispensaries.

Operators of Marvin's Gardens Cooperative say the ruling by Presiding Judge Robert Boyd allows them to stay open and directs county zoning code enforcement officers to back off.

"We reopened last week and we are allowed to stay open," said the cooperative's office manager Terri Worden.

But county officials disagree and they showed up at the medical marijuana dispensary Monday morning with a cease-and-desist order.

"When the judge invalidated the ordinance, that means dispensaries are no longer mentioned in our zoning ordinances," said Pete Parkinson, director of the Permit Resource and Management Department. "And, if they aren't mentioned, they aren't allowed and they will be subject to code enforcement."

Zoning officials are to brief the county board of supervisors on the dispute today.

"We want to avoid a rush of folks operating under the mis-impression that they can legally open a dispensary wherever they want," Parkinson said Monday.

The dispute that ended up in court stems from a two-year effort by Marvin's Gardens to obtain a use permit for a new location in Guerneville following loss of its lease in Rio Nido. The club, which says it provides marijuana to about 900 clients with doctor-approved prescriptions, has been in operation for a decade and is believed to be the county's oldest medicinal marijuana club.

In January 2007, Sonoma County supervisors decided that medical marijuana dispensaries could apply for use permits but only in commercial areas of Guerneville, Forestville, Boyes Hot Springs, outside Santa Rosa City limits in Roseland and along south Santa Rosa Avenue.


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