LONG BEACH - A group of local marijuana dispensaries is suing the city of Long Beach, alleging it and its police force are using illegal methods to run them them out of business, according to court papers filed Friday.
According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in downtown Los Angeles, lead plaintiff Green Earth Center claims police are using "warrantless" raids and other federally prohibited tactics to run the collectives out of town. The complaint, which seeks an injunction and damages for alleged civil rights violations, also names five Long Beach police officers in connection with alleged illegal raids in which marijuana, cash, cars and other property were seized.
Long Beach City Attorney Robert Shannon said the city has not yet received a copy of the lawsuit so he could not comment on the matter specifically.
Shannon, however, noted that it is not the first time the city has been sued over the issue of medical marijuana.
"We've been sued numerous times, over 10 times, and we haven't lost a case yet," Shannon said late Friday. "It's a matter that will have to be decided by the federal courts."
A number of collectives were forcibly shuttered last November after a citywide ban took effect.
More than half a dozen locations were the subject of raids carried out the Long Beach Police Department, the California Franchise Tax Board and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, and Police Department officials have warned collectives that more raids are likely unless the remaining dispensaries in the city shut down on their own.
The citywide ban followed a "gentle ban," enacted in 2010, which followed months of public discussion and saw the City Council set up a lottery system for collectives to win the right to legally operate while they were vetted for a formal permit.
More than $700,000 in fees were gathered and 22 collectives were selected.
Then, in October last year - and before the permits were issued - the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled the city's regulations violated federal law prohibiting the sale and distribution of marijuana. An at-times rowdy public debate ensued, with the council eventually voting for the wholesale ban, which included a six-month exemption for the lottery winners deemed in good standing with the city.
"The council felt that we don't have the ability to regulate, and you can't really have a situation where an industry is completely unregulated," Assistant City Attorney Michael Mais told the Press-Telegram last year.
News services contributed to this report.