Milpitas urgency ordinance to ban cannabis clubs fails

May 18, 2005

Jay Peeples, The Milpitas Post

A proposed urgency ordinance that would have placed a 45-day moratorium on the establishment and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries fell one vote short of the required four-fifths vote at Tuesday night's Milpitas City Council meeting.

Councilmember Althea Polanski cast the lone vote against the moratorium, and with Councilmember Bob Livengood absent, the proposal failed to garner the necessary four votes. Mayor Jose Esteves inquired whether the item could return when Livengood is present, but Assistant City Attorney Richard Pio Roda said the urgency ordinance could not.

He explained the matter would have to go through the full ordinance process if it returned.

According to Pio Roda, the issue arose after the city received inquiries about locating medical marijuana dispensaries in Milpitas. He said the city needs to study the potential impacts to health, safety and welfare of such businesses. The 45-day moratorium was proposed, Pio Roda said, so staff could study the issue and draft an amendment to the zoning ordinance to permit such dispensaries as conditional uses in three zoning districts.

'Currently, the Milpitas Municipal Code and the zoning code are silent,' Pio Roda said.

Councilmember Debbie Giordano said she wanted more input from the state, and added that she wanted to see security cameras around such facilities and off-duty police officers as security at the facilities, if they were approved. Giordano also wanted a 180-day moratorium.

Pio Roda said the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the issue of legalized dispensaries for medical marijuana, and will likely render a decision by the end of June.

In a report to the council, city staff noted that other California cities had experienced negative secondary impacts from medical marijuana dispensaries, including increased crime in the area of dispensaries, robbery of patients, and individuals smoking marijuana in the vicinity of dispensaries.

A number of people were at the meeting to oppose the moratorium. Jim Lohse, who runs a medical marijuana dispensary, said the moratorium was unnecessary and inadequate.

'You have big loopholes in your moratorium,' he said. 'I wish everybody would remember it's the state law.'

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, The Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which allowed people who are in need of medical marijuana for specified medical purposes to obtain it.

North San Jose resident Marnie Regan, a medical marijuana patient, said there are no dispensaries in Santa Clara County, and she is forced to drive to San Francisco or Alameda County to pick up her marijuana. She noted the potential secondary impacts were limited.

'These problems you've listed are associated with very few dispensaries,' Regan said.

Councilmember Polanski said she found it distressing that there were no medical marijuana dispensaries in the county, and was not in favor of painting with a broad brush to prevent such businesses from locating in Milpitas. She said if her child needed medicine and she needed to drive to San Francisco to pick it up, she would not be happy.

'It's another business that wants to come and provide a service,' Polanski said. 'I'm not ready to vote for a moratorium.

'Medicinal marijuana is something I think should be dispensed by actual physicians.'

Mayor Jose Esteves said he was concerned about the potential impacts of such a business in Milpitas. He also said he received obscene phone calls from someone who was opposed to the moratorium. He supported the moratorium, saying he wanted more information.

'I don't want to take risks in the meantime,' he said.

Following the decision, Regan was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

'We're optimistic they will listen to our side,' she said.

Since current zoning code does not address medical marijuana dispensaries, any proposal would likely need to go to the Milpitas Planning Commission for a designation within a district, or the zoning ordinance would need to be amended.



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