Long Beach Moratorium Puts Medical Marijuana Clubs On Hold
May 11, 2005
Steve Irsay, Gazette Newspapers
Several recent applications to open medical marijuana clubs in Long Beach will remain on hold for up to six months following the City Council’s approval Tuesday night of a moratorium on the establishments.
Prompted by a business license application in her Eighth District, Councilwoman Rae Gabelich last month proposed the moratorium, saying the city needed the proper regulations in place before allowing any clubs to operate. City law does not specifically address medical marijuana dispensaries.
The council approved an interim moratorium at that April 12 meeting. The ordinance approved this week replaces that measure and will be in effect for six months or until permanent regulations are adopted.
Assistant City Attorney Mike Mais said a draft ordinance already is circulating to various city departments and public comment is being sought. The measure should be before the the council for approval within 30 days, he added.
Gabelich said she supports people’s right to use medical marijuana, but added that she believed a lack of regulation could be disastrous for patients and the public.
“I think that there is a place for it, but I think that it needs to be controlled,” she said. “I think if we do this right Š we will be providing a service for those in need of this assistance and it will be a win-win for everyone involved.”
The number of medical marijuana clubs in California has grown considerably since voters approved Proposition 215, also known as the “Compassionate Use Act of 1996.” However, that initiative, as well as last year’s follow-up statute, SB 420, did relatively little to address the proper distribution of the drug.
As a result, many medicinal users have turned to collectives, or cannabis clubs, as alternatives to buying marijuana on the streets. Opponents of the clubs argue that they are magnets for illegal drug activity and other crime.
In the absence of clear legal guidelines, municipalities have dealt differently with the clubs. The city of Oakland licenses four clubs. Alameda County officials are considering a proposal to open a government-run medical marijuana clinic at a county hospital. By contrast, the small Northern California city of Rocklin outlawed the clubs late last year.
In the last few months, several cities, including San Francisco, West Hollywood and Huntington Beach have enacted moratoriums similar to the one approved in Long Beach. Other cities are considering similar moves.
The Long Beach ordinance temporarily prohibits the licensing and operation of any medical marijuana dispensary. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine, six months in jail, or both.
The entire debate could be moot following a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision that may allow federal drug agents to arrest patients in the 10 states that allow residents to use medical marijuana. That decision could come as soon as next week.