10:00 PM PDT on Monday, August 8, 2011

By ALICIA ROBINSON
The Press-Enterprise

An attorney for four medical marijuana dispensaries in Riverside has filed several lawsuits to pre-empt any city attempts to close the facilities.

It’s similar to the strategy Riverside City Attorney Greg Priamos has been using against dispensaries for more than a year. He’s been filing requests for injunctions to ask judges to shutter dispensaries, on the grounds that city zoning bans them.

James DeAguilera, a former Loma Linda planning director and attorney who represents more than a dozen Inland dispensaries, said last week that he requested injunctions to block Riverside from enforcing the zoning code against his clients.

Such lawsuits against the city have been rare, although Priamos said he has filed 15 suits against dispensaries to date. Some facilities have opted to close after receiving cease-and-desist letters, some have closed when the city filed a lawsuit, and others remain open, according to Priamos.

“The city believes that it has the lawful right to control land uses within its jurisdiction and that would include a ban on dispensaries,” Priamos said.

DeAguilera contends that recent state appeals court decisions in two Colton cases suggest cities can’t declare dispensaries a nuisance simply because they’ve passed zoning laws to ban them.

“We don’t think these (zoning) laws are legal,” he said. “(Riverside’s) ordinance is illegal, so we’re asking to court to enjoin them from enforcing an illegal ordinance.”

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