As Lake Forest Marijuana Dispensary Owner Gets Prison Time, Federal Suit is Filed to Guarantee Patient Access

As Lake Forest Marijuana Dispensary Owner Gets Prison Time, Federal Suit is Filed to Guarantee Patient Access

As a Lake Forest medical marijuana dispensary owner and manager were being convicted today of selling and possessing cannabis, a Mission Viejo law firm was announcing a federal lawsuit aimed at barring authorities from denying patients access to Costa Mesa and Lake Forest dispensaries.

Between January and November 2009, Steven John Wick, 26, of Rancho Santa Margarita, owned and operated the Health Collective dispensary on Raymond Way in Lake Forest.

According to prosecutors, Wick and his manager, Marilynn Geneva Manuel, 29, also of RSM, sold marijuana to people with recommendations from a physician. However, some patients did not have any relationship with the dispensary nor were they required to participate in collectively or cooperatively cultivating marijuana.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office points to state law:

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The cultivation, possession, distribution, and/or sale of marijuana is illegal. California law only provides an affirmative defense to those with a physician's recommendation or to their primary caregiver for the possession or cultivation of marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient. California law also allows qualified patients and their primary caregivers to associate in order to collectively and cooperatively cultivate marijuana for medical purposes.  This affirmative defense does not apply to the sale of marijuana. Distribution and sale of marijuana to individuals with a physician's recommendation without any other relationship, such as through a dispensary, is not permitted under California law.

Wick pleaded guilty to one felony count each of the sale of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, and sentencing enhancements for being out on bail for other cannabis-related counts in Orange and Humboldt Counties at the time of his arrest.

As part of a plea agreement, Wick was sentenced to three years in state prison for the Lake Forest case and is expected to plead guilty on April 13 to charges of sales and possession for sale that will get him an additional year in the can.

Manuel pleaded guilty to one felony count of possession for sale of marijuana. Her one-year jail sentence will be stayed if she successfully completes three years of probation.

Health Collective's co-owner, Tara Elizabeth Sorenson, 22, of Rancho Santa Margarita, is also charged with three felony counts of marijuana sales and one felony count of possession of marijuana for sale.

Sorenson could get up to six years and eight months in state prison if she is convicted. She has an April 29 preliminary hearing date in Newport Beach.
Meanwhile, the Law Office of Matthew Pappas in Mission Viejo announced a lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court in Santa Ana under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) "to enjoin the cities of Costa Mesa and Lake Forest from preventing access to medical marijuana collective dispensaries."

Pappas represents patients of the MedMar Patient Care Collective, one of the Costa Mesa dispensaries city officials slapped with cease-and-desist orders last month.

The suit alleges that "by conducting police and code enforcement raids, shutting down collectives, harassing patients and collective operators the Plaintiffs are effectively denied access to public services as provided for under the ADA."

"Plaintiffs assert that their position is unique in the area of marijuana access law because, other than growing, harvesting and preparing marijuana themselves, the only legal avenue for them to obtain the medication legally is thru collective dispensaries."

The suit asks, among other remedies, that the federal court order Costa Mesa and Lake Forest to "establish reasonable codes, regulations and ordinances that will accommodate the needs of qualified persons under the ADA so as to be able to legally access marijuana under California law."

It was filed on behalf of Marla James, Wayne Washington, James Armantrout and Charles Daniel DeJong is titled Marla James, et al vs. The City of Costa Mesa, California, et al.

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