Council delays marijuana-club ban

March 20, 2005

Gary Scott , Pasadena Star News

PASADENA -- Asked Monday whether medical marijuana should be allowed to be sold within its borders, the Pasadena City Council chose to remain silent.

The council was to consider a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, often referred to as cannabis clubs, but instead deferred a decision for at least five weeks at the urging of Councilman Steve Madison.

Madison, a former federal prosecutor, hopes this will be enough time for the U.S. Supreme Court to make what could be a decisive ruling on the issue.

The case, Raich v.

Ashcroft, is expected to clarify whether federal drug laws trump California's voter-approved initiative, Proposition 215, giving patients the right to use medical marijuana with a doctor's consent.

'We want to follow the law of both the state and federal government,' Madison said.

The rest of the council agreed to the delay without discussion, avoiding a potentially contentious debate on the merits of medical marijuana use.

'If this matter gets resolved by the Supreme Court, then we would have wasted our time,' Mayor Bill Bogaard said before the meeting.

The city's police, planners and health officials had called for the ban after receiving inquiries from a central California cannabis cooperative.

Police Chief Bernard Melekian said evidence from law enforcement agencies around the state - along with his own department's investigation - make clear 'medical marijuana dispensaries do not serve the purpose they purport to.'

Melekian would not elaborate, but the report that went to the City Council cited incidents of burglary, robbery, illicit drug sales and drug use at five cannabis cooperatives in Northern California.

There have been no applications filed to establish a cannabis club in Pasadena.

About a dozen medical marijuana advocates were at the meeting to oppose such a ban. Among them was William Britt, founder of a group called Association of Patient Advocates in Long Beach, who said he uses marijuana to treat epilepsy and pain associated with polio.

'I'm not saying it's for everybody, but it is the perfect medicine for me,' said Britt. He had with him a small amount of marijuana; a pipe, which he referred to as a 'medical delivery device,' and a note from a doctor that read, 'I approve of your use of cannabis as a therapy for your medical symptoms.'

Without marijuana, Britt said, he'd be taking five or more medicines, some of which be needed simply to treat the negative side effects of others.

Worse, he said, several of the prescription medicines would aggravate his epilepsy.

Rachel Lujan of La Puente, whose son is an activist with NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said she had hoped Pasadena would serve as a model for the San Gabriel Valley and allow medical marijuana dispensaries.

'I just want to see the city of Pasadena show compassion,' she said.



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