Moratorium on medical marijuana clubs in Milpitas

August 03, 2005

Ian Bauer, Milpitas Post

Anyone looking to open and operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Milpitas should look elsewhere.

Milpitas City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt a 45-day "urgency ordinance" moratorium to stop such businesses from locating in Milpitas.

Councilwoman Althea Polanski dissented.

Other council members, however, agreed establishment of medical marijuana clinics here would likely increase crime and threaten residents' welfare and safety.

Mayor Jose Esteves said "the negative secondary impact" of medical marijuana clubs was something the city "cannot afford."

Esteves cited social ills like "increased street dealing," intoxicated drivers and "impacts to neighboring businesses" that would likely occur if medical marijuana clubs materialized here.

The mayor also suggested the city's diminished police services would not handle any increase in crime.

"We have limited resources of public safety officers," Esteves added.

But Councilwoman Polanski said "for reasons she stated before" she opposed the moratorium.

Sometimes known as cannabis or pot clubs, the ordinance was adopted because planning staff claimed they received several written and verbal inquiries regarding the land-use application process for medical marijuana dispensaries.

The imposed moratorium will give city officials time to craft amendments to Milpitas' municipal and zoning codes that could cover location and regulation of medical marijuana clinics. Currently, staff reports state city codes are "silent" with regard to those issues.

On June 7, council members voted 4-1 to bring back the ordinance for further review for approval. Councilwoman Polanski dissented at that time as well.

The council's vote in June coincided with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling the same week to allow the federal government the right to prosecute people in violation of federal drug laws, including those people who smoke prescription marijuana.

The medical use of marijuana in the state of California the first of seven U.S. states to allow its use for medicinal purposes follows the overwhelming passage by California voters of Proposition 215, titled the "Compassionate Use Act of 1996."

The proposition's intent allows persons in medical need of marijuana the ability to legally obtain the drug without fear of criminal prosecution.

Many physicians prescribe marijuana sometimes in a pill form for patients dealing with pain and nausea caused by the affects of cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other serious diseases.

Since Proposition 215's adoption, state and federal laws have clashed over the use, possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana in the state and its relation to "cannabis clubs" or medical dispensaries legal disparities that have led to court actions.

Milpitas' medical marijuana clinic moratorium is part of a trend among many Bay Area cities to keep out such businesses.

City of Fremont officials gave virtually the same reasons of increased crime and public safety issues last September in finding for their own "urgency ordinance" moratorium on pot clubs.

To further draft amendments to city law, Milpitas' adopted moratorium could be extended by the council for another 22 months and 15 days.

Steve Mattas, Milpitas city attorney, said at the Aug. 2 council meeting that city staff might come back in a month's time to request that extension.

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