MediLeaf sues former landlords

The list of strains of cannabis at MediLeaf includes such names

More than seven months after MediLeaf opened its doors without
city permission amidst a splash of controversy, the Gilroy-based
medical marijuana dispensary hardly receives notice from
More than seven months after MediLeaf opened its doors without city permission amidst a splash of controversy, the Gilroy-based medical marijuana dispensary hardly receives notice from passersby.

Yet directors of MediLeaf, which has added two dispensaries in San Jose, claim it has received more than 4,000 members since it opened Nov. 9. Meanwhile, its legal challenges continue, as the City of Gilroy will seek a motion against MediLeaf on July 1 that would shut down the dispensary. MediLeaf is also in the middle of a lawsuit against its erstwhile landlords – former Morgan Hill Mayor John Sorci and his wife, Toni.

According to a city lawsuit, the dispensary opened without a business license at 1321 First St. after the City Council rejected an ordinance to regulate such operations, effectively barring them.

“Just because somebody complains about it doesn’t mean can open up without proper permits,” Mayor Al Pinheiro said.

MediLeaf directors have maintained that the dispensary is a nonprofit and therefore does not require a business license. City officials have said that is not the case, claiming that dispensary directors knowingly defied city zoning laws.

Judge Kevin Murphy denied the city a preliminary injunction to shut down MediLeaf on Dec. 15, allowing it to continue operating while litigation is pending.

On July 1, the city hopes to obtain a “summary judgment,” which would indicate that no legal facts are in dispute, to shut down the dispensary, said Andy Faber, the attorney who is representing the city against MediLeaf. Attorneys for MediLeaf maintain that the dispensary has been acting legally and has caused the city no harm.

“There have not been marijuana addicts sleeping in the streets,” said James Roberts, a San Jose-based attorney representing the dispensary.

He did not know of a single complaint made to police about the dispensary since it began operating, he said.

Batzi Kuburovich, one of MediLeaf’s co-directors, said the dispensary actually has improved the west Gilroy shopping center where it resides by cleaning up the corner of the lot where it stands.

MediLeaf is still undergoing inspections, but it has obtained a building permit after lowering sinks, placing handrails in the bathrooms and conducting other miscellaneous tasks, co-director Neil Forrest said.

It also has scaled down its size to cut costs, taking up only part of the building it occupies at 1321 First St., with plans to sublet the remaining space, Forrest said.

Konni Thomas, owner of First Street Coffee Exchange, which sits in the same shopping center as MediLeaf, said she is not thrilled about having a pot club there, but initial fears have been unfounded.

“It’s like it’s nonexistent or something,” she said. “It doesn’t seem any different.”

Meanwhile, MediLeaf has kept busy by opening two new dispensaries in San Jose – one at 1340 Meridian Ave. in Willow Glen and one at 2129 S. 10th St.

San Jose has decided not to crack down on dispensaries unless they are creating a nuisance, said Michael Hannon, a San Jose code enforcement official. However, that may change as the city is about to consider a dispensary ordinance, he said.

MediLeaf has been working with the San Jose on drafting the wording of the ordinance, Kuburovich said.

Meanwhile, he described the situation in Gilroy as “an uphill battle.”

MediLeaf also has filed a small-claims suit against its former landlord, John and Toni Sorci, after they allegedly failed to pay back $5,000 in rent for a building that they had leased to another business.

MediLeaf signed an agreement with John Sorci on June 1, 2009, to begin leasing 7581 Monterey St. on Sept. 1, 2009. However, the city granted a business license to Dollar Store and More for the same location that August, Kuburovich said.

MediLeaf never occupied the building, and MediLeaf representatives only had one meeting there, he said.

The Sorcis’ son, Sal Sorci, contended Thursday that his family only allowed Dollar Store and More to use that building after MediLeaf backed out of their agreement. At the time, MediLeaf representatives said they could not use the building because they had failed to receive approval from the city government, he said.

“It was a big set-up,” Sal Sorci said.

Kuburovich disputed those claims, saying that Sal Sorci can be “misleading.”

Judge Gregory Saldivar on Thursday postponed a hearing until July 15 after receiving a letter from Sal Sorci that indicated John Sorci was being hospitalized after receiving knee surgery.

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