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Upland – Former City Manager Stephen Dunn is questioning the city’s claim it has collected $250,000 in settlements and court judgments against illegal medical marijuana dispensaries it shut down.

“The city says it has received $250,000, but the reality is they haven’t received all of it,” he said.

Since 2014, Upland has closed 24 illegal dispensaries. Interim City Manager Martin Thouvenell said Upland recently was awarded a $30,000 settlement, bring the total to $280,000.

But that doesn’t mean the city has received the money. So far, it’s collected $75,000 from settlements and court judgments, Thouvenell acknowledged, with another $205,000 now owed as property liens.

“We’ll get the money. It may be delayed, but we’ll get the amount we’ve been awarded,” he said.

Thouvenell said Upland police and its legal team are diligently working on collecting those judgments. Meanwhile, Thouvenell is working with staff and the police department to strengthen the current business permit process, with the possibility of instituting daily fines that can compound each day an illegal business is operating.

Dunn, who served as city manager from 2011 to 2014 before retiring a year before his contract was up, has been vocal in his opposition to the city spending money he believes should pay for vital public safety and community services rather than legal fees to fight medical marijuana dispensaries.

According to city records, the city has spent about $344,000 on legal counsel and enforcement on medical marijuana dispensaries since about 2012, when enforcement was stepped up, through the end of December 2015. That figure accounts for closed cases only, not pending actions.

But Dunn questions those figures as well.

Before his stint as city manager, Dunn served as Upland’s finance director for a decade, starting in 2001. In both roles, Dunn said he would monitor the legal bills associated with dispensaries, which he said totaled at least $1 million through 2014.

“When your resources are dwindling, is this the top way you want to spend resources?” he asked.

On the flip side, if medical marijuana dispensaries were allowed to operate, then Upland could easily collect $350,000 annually, Dunn said.

“For the city to be able to enforce the ban, and be effective, you’re going to have to allocate $2 million to the police department,” Dunn said. “If you gave the police department $2 million, would you make that your top priority?”

Instead, the city should dedicate tax dollars received from pot shops properly permitted to operate toward education and regulation, Dunn said. He added city leaders should have tried to work with the California Cannabis Coalition before it filed its initiative that’s on the Nov. 8 ballot to determine how much to tax the businesses so that the city could recoup its costs. He doesn’t believe the city’s response, to send an all-out ban to the Planning Commission for consideration last month, is going to solve the problem.

“They’re clearly spending more than they are collecting,” Dunn said.

In only three cases did the city file complaints without recovering money. In each one of those cases, a temporary restraining order was obtained and then the defendant vacated the property, city officials said.

Of the $75,000 the city has received, $15,000 was awarded to the city from a December 2015 settlement against a property owner – not the dispensary operators, according to city documents. It was donated to the Upland Homeless Outreach Fund of the Upland Community Foundation.

When it comes to enforcement, Upland isn’t in the business of making a profit, Thouvenell said.

“Law enforcement isn’t predicated on making money,” he said. “It isn’t always about dollars and cents for police officers. You don’t pick and choose what you enforce; their job is to fight crime.”

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Upland Receives Some But Not All Money Owed From Defunct Medical Marijuana Dispensary
Author: Liset Marquez
Contact: 909-987-6397
Photo Credit: James Carbone
Website: Daily Bulletin