Millbrae bans medical marijuana dispensaries

February 09, 2010

Joshua Melvin, San Mateo County Times

The city's elected leaders have made Millbrae the first in San Mateo County to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. By unanimous vote, the City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday night that prohibits the facilities from setting up in Millbrae but allows clinics and hospices to dispense medical marijuana to their patients. In doing so, the council went one step further than city councils in South San Francisco, San Bruno and Redwood City, which have enacted temporary bans on pot collectives.

"It has no place in our city at this time," Millbrae Mayor Paul Seto said Wednesday.

Cities throughout the state have been struggling to decide how to deal with dispensaries since voters in 1996 passed Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana. Some cities, such as San Francisco and San Mateo, have enacted rules for the facilities, but many others have outlawed them in their jurisdictions.

Millbrae police Cmdr. Mark Raffaelli told the council that dispensaries attract crime and that getting the card required to buy medical marijuana is easy and involves little medical supervision. Raffaelli said young people are the primary users of the facilities.

"The intent of (Proposition 215) was to move in one direction. We have found, like anything else, as soon as it started there were a lot of abuses," he said.

City Attorney Joan Cassman said the city chose to go with a ban rather than a moratorium because there is nothing in the law that says cities have to allow dispensaries. The Southern California city of Claremont won a lawsuit last year upholding its ban.

Cassman told the council it isn't "intellectually honest" to temporarily ban collectives when a town's true intention is to keep them out for the long term. However, the city can change its rule if new court cases or legislation change the legal landscape, she said.

Only two people spoke at the meeting and both were in favor of the ban. But Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, argued Wednesday that the city's new rule is illegal.

Hermes, who did not attend Tuesday's meeting, agreed that state medical marijuana rules do not require cities to allow dispensaries, but they don't give cities the power to ban them either. He pointed to another case currently in the state appeals court that might help decide the issue.

Medical marijuana dispensary Qualified Patients Association is battling with the city of Anaheim over whether or not it can operate there.

Hermes said the notion that dispensaries result in higher crime is untrue and "inflammatory." On the contrary, he said, places such as Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa have seen crime reductions near facilities in their cities.

"It's unfortunate, especially for patients, that city officials feel they can ban dispensaries," he said.

Be the first to Comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.