Whittier Council to allow marijuana clinics

December 13, 2005

Mike Sprague, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

The City Council has voted 3-2 to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in certain industrial areas of the city.

If the council approves the second reading of the ordinance at its Jan. 10 meeting, Whittier will be one of 21 cities in California that have laws allowing such establishments.

Fourteen cities in California have banned them.

The three councilmen who supported the ordinance in the vote early Wednesday morning said they wanted to ensure the city could regulate it.

Mayor Greg Nordbak and council members Bob Henderson and Doug Lopez voted in favor of the ordinance with Cathy Warner and Owen Newcomer opposing it.

"I'd rather have an ordinance that controls it and locates it, as opposed to not having a clue where it is," Nordbak said.

Medical marijuana dispensaries have been legal under state law since 1996, when California voters passed Proposition 215, which allows marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes. However, under federal law, marijuana is illegal to possess and use.

The original ordinance - recommended by the Planning Commission - limited the number of locations to 12. But the council further amended it to ensure that any dispensaries be 1,000 feet away from schools, instead of just 250 feet.

Jeff Collier, director of community development, said he isn't sure how many locations would meet the new criteria.

Councilwoman Owen Newcomer and Cathy Warner, who opposed it, said the city should ban

such places.

"Our goal is to prevent problems," Newcomer said. "I'm not convinced that setting up rules helps solve the situation."

Warner said she wanted a ban because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

"I don't want to get into a discussion of the merits (of the marijuana dispensaries)," Warner said. "To me the issue is one of legality. Is it legal to have this substance dispensed in the city. It's not."

Henderson said he understands why people would use marijuana for medical purposes.

"I had a friend who died from cancer," he said. "The only way she could eat was to get marijuana. We take opiates and dispense them every day in a doctor's prescription. Here's a drug that has literally never killed anybody and yet we won't allow doctors to do research."

The ordinance also would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from entering a marijuana dispensary. It also limits hours of operation to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and requires the facilities to provide security guards

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