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Closed pot store promises litigation

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| February 17, 2011 10:55 AM

A marijuana dispensary in Libby shut

its doors last week after police issued a citation for operating

without a valid city business license.

The business, Helping Center of Libby,

plans to take legal action before its court date next Monday.

“There’s no question we’ll be filing an

action against the city,” said Kevin Moore of the Helping Center.

“… On or before the 21st my attorney will be addressing it.”

In a 4-2 vote, the Libby City Council

revoked the Helping Center’s license last December, effective Feb.

5, after the council determined that the business was in violation

of Libby’s business license ordinance. A clause in the ordinance

requires that businesses follow all applicable local, state and

federal laws. While medical marijuana is legal in Montana, the U.S.

government doesn’t recognize the drug’s medicinal uses.

Councilmembers said they unknowingly

approved the Helping Center’s business license last fall because

the application did not explicitly state it was a medical marijuana

provider, but a “pain clinic.”

Moore, who set up the business in

Libby, contends that he did so in an honest and open way. He argues

that municipals have no right to outlaw a trade that is regulated

by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Resources.

“I think this is an agenda by the

mayor,” Moore said. “I don’t think the council voted freely to have

our license rescinded.”

Mayor Doug Roll disagrees.

“There’s no political agenda. It’s just

the way the law was written. That’s it,” Roll said. “The council

made a decision, after a hearing with this guy, to give him time to

locate somewhere else.”

Moore said the business may temporarily

operate at a location outside the city limits.

“If we have to service our patients at

a new location, we may get a second location very soon,” he

said.

The Libby dispensary is part of the

Helping Centers of Montana – a group of eight separately-registered

S corporations. The medical marijuana clinics operate in Kalispell,

Libby, Bigfork and Columbia Falls, with new clinics in Eureka,

Whitefish, Cut Bank and Glasgow on the horizon.

Rhonda McDowell-Rowen, who works out of

the Kalispell-based corporate office, replaced Moore as director of

the Helping Centers last year. Moore said he has sold all of his

shares to the business and no longer has a financial stake in the

enterprise.

He says he remains involved out of an

obligation to existing shareholders and patients.