Jesse B. Gill, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/19/2010 07:03:48 AM PDT

BEAUMONT – A single medical marijuana dispensary is operating in violation of a moratorium in the city, and the General Fund grows by $1,000 every day it stays in business.

The City Council passed a moratorium in May 2009 on nonprofit medical marijuana cooperatives and collectives designed to operate exclusive circuits of marijuana cultivation and consumption with no purchase or sales to or from nonmembers.

Oak Tree Alternative Care, 257 E. Sixth St., is a medical marijuana dispensary operating in violation of the moratorium. As a result, the city fines the dispensary $1,000 per day.

And the dispensary’s owner, Art Moreno, pays the fine and has done so since summer 2009.

Moreno did not return a phone message Friday seeking comment.

The revenue generated by the fines is deposited directly into the city’s General Fund.

City spokeswoman Darci Mulvihill could not provide the exact amount the dispensary has paid to the city through fines.

A dispensary employee comes to City Hall every Monday and drops off a check, she said.

When asked if any other businesses in the city operate outside a moratorium and simply pay the resulting fines to stay in business, Mulvihill said, “Not that I know of.”

“You’re probably not going to find another situation like that,” she said.

But just because the dispensary’s fines boosts the General Fund doesn’t mean the city wants it to stay.

Police Chief Frank Coe called the dispensary a “public nuisance.”

“A lot of the neighboring businesses really want the city to take action,” he said.

Police officers visit the dispensary every day to deliver a citation, because the dispensary operates in violation of the moratorium, Coe said.

“They violate the law every single day by operating in violation of our city ordinances,” Coe said. “And we address that fact every single day by assigning resources to it.”

The fines aren’t designed to make the city money, Mulvihill said. They are designed to discourage businesses from violating city ordinances.

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