Cities fight pot clubs in court, mull compromise in chambers.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Two local entrepreneurs have dragged Monterey County kicking and screaming into the state’s medical marijuana debate. Jhonrico Carrnshimba and Daniel Maniscalco appear to have convinced a majority of city councilmembers in both Monterey and P.G to move toward regulation, rather than prohibition of the controversial weed.
Still, the pot pioneers could be iced out – or at least sent to stand in line with other would-be dispensary operators if cities allow medical pot.
Attorneys for the city of Monterey will face off against Carrnshimba in court Friday, March 12, as they seek to shut down My Caregiver, the dispensary he opened last fall, unbeknownst to city officials. The city argues that it violates zoning rules. The P.G. City Council approved similar action against Maniscalco when it voted unanimously in closed session last Wednesday to seek an injunction against the Apothecary, Maniscalco’s proposed Central Avenue storefront. He argues the action is unnecessary because he’s not yet open for business. The injunction was being filed Wednesday, March 10, officials said.
Complicating matters is a felony marijuana charge filed against Maniscalco last October. Deputy District Attorney Ann Hill says law enforcement investigated his activities with cooperation from United Parcel Service, but refused further comment.
Maniscalco insists he was a card-carrying medical pot patient, protected under Prop 215, when he was charged. The law, approved by voters in 1996, isn’t a shield against prosecution but it is a defense, he notes. “Every patient in Monterey County is subject to arrest,” Maniscalco says. A preliminary hearing in the case is set for March 19.
Despite his shaky legal status, Maniscalco found reason to celebrate after last week’s P.G. City Council meeting. The council indicated its goal was medical marijuana regulation, even as it voted for a 10-month extension of its moratorium on dispensaries. Councilmembers shot down a plan by city officials to wait for a court of appeals decision on whether medical pot bans are legal before drafting regulations, and instructed staff to move quickly.
“The legal landscape is murky,” City Councilwoman Lisa Bennett said. “We have to make our own decisions.”
“I’m really proud of the City Council,” Maniscalco said, as a small group gathered to admire his newly remodeled shop with koi pond, slate floor tiles and a couple of 2-foot-high pot plants basking under fluorescent light.