Morro Bay's Pot Dispensary Ban Will End

June 16, 2005

Lindsay Christians, San Luis Obispo Tribune

The Morro Bay City Council on Monday did not extend a temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, making it the only city in the county where a new dispensary could open. Extending the ban required a four-fifths vote; only three council members supported the extension.

Police Chief John DeRohan and City Attorney Rob Schultz had encouraged the council to extend the ban, which was set last month, to provide time to craft regulations on future dispensaries, such as how many patients they could serve, where they could be located and what their hours could be.

'A lot of cities are regulating ( dispensaries ),' Schultz said.  'They're saying it's fine, but only for residents of the city so you don't have people coming from all over.'

In banning the dispensaries temporarily, Morro Bay followed Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Atascadero and Paso Robles.

Many of those temporary bans last for 10 more months, Schultz said.  And several cities are looking at banning dispensaries permanently.

DeRohan said the challenge with medical marijuana dispensaries comes with the lack of uniform identification cards and the conflict between federal and state laws.

Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the federal government's right to prosecute patients but didn't overturn California's medical marijuana law.

'Our police attorneys are saying it could put any city at risk for allowing a dispensary to come in and violate federal law,' DeRohan said, though he added that officers will not begin prosecuting any dispensaries that set up, on the advice of the state attorney general.

Louis Koory, an attorney who handles most of the county's medical marijuana cases, called Morro Bay's decision 'the right thing to happen.'

'As far as my clients are concerned, that is one less city that will be subject to challenge,' Koory said.  'Whether or not anything will open up there, I just don't know.

'There is a need in that area for medical marijuana to be distributed in a reasonable and responsible fashion.'

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