FONTANA - Patrick and Madeline Terry do not own a medical marijuana dispensary, but they are among the many Californians who have much to gain - or lose - when the state Supreme Court decides whether cities can ban cannabis dispensaries.

The Terrys are former landlords to a now-defunct dispensary that operated within walking distance of Fontana's City Hall, police station and the Lewis Library & Technology Center.

The dispensary, which was called Maxum Wellness Center, has been gone from its Wheeler Avenue location for more than a year, but Fontana officials and the Terrys are stuck in a legal dispute that cannot be decided until the state Supreme Court hands down a ruling heard Tuesday.

That ruling, expected to be of huge importance to city governments and medical marijuana advocates, could also have a major impact on the Terrys' lives and finances, Patrick Terry and his attorney said.

"What they're after is deep pockets," said Patrick Terry, who lives in Pahrump, Nev.

Attorneys for either side did not provide an exact dollar figure for what may be at stake for the Terrys, but the couple's attorney said the Nevada couple could face fines, liens or seizure of their Fontana property.

Terry and his attorney are also upset with Fontana officials for including Terry's wife, Madeline, in the case, despite the fact she suffers from senile dementia.


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"The city attorney wouldn't be happy with money, they would want their scalps," said Kenneth Campion, who represents the Terrys.

That phrase is not the way Fontana City Attorney Jeffrey S. Ballinger described the situation.

In the case between the city and the landlords, Fontana's legal team sought to have the Terrys found in contempt of court after the dispensary was found to be in operation following a September 2011 court order to stop medical marijuana at the location.

Although the Terrys took action to evict Maxum Wellness Center in early November 2011, Ballinger said the city is justified in pursuing a contempt finding given the lack of compliance with a court order.

What's more, the city attorney said a court order should not have been necessary.

"We don't have a lot of compassion for landlords who are issuing leases in violation of a city ordinance," Ballinger said.

Fontana and other cities' power to adopt bans against dispensary was at issue when the state Supreme Court held hearings Tuesday.

The specific case involves Riverside and a dispensary called Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center. The decision, however, is expected to settle whether Fontana and other California cities can keep dispensary bans on the books.

"It's a huge, huge decision," Ballinger said.

Ballinger said a decision that allows cities to ban dispensary would respect local governments' traditional power to make zoning laws.

Terry, however, said he thinks California voters settled the issue when they voted to allow medical marijuana use in 1996.

"All that I've done is to rent a building to a legal company in California," he said.

"When I was in civics class, I understood that laws are passed by the people, but I'm naive as hell," he added.

The case involving the Terrys and Fontana is on hold until the state's highest court hands down its ruling. San Bernardino Superior Court Judge David Cohn decided in August that state law is not clear enough for pleadings to continue.

Ballinger said he expects the state Supreme Court to reveal its decision in 60 to 90 days.

andrew.edwards@inlandnewspapers.com

909-483-8550, @InlandGov