Pico Rivera extends marijuana moratorium
April 18, 2006
Debbie Pfeiffer, Whittier Daily NewsThe City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to extend its temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries by 10 months and 15 days.
Officials made the decision to extend an interim ordinance, which prohibits issuing any permits to medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, because they need more time to study the subject, said City Manager Chuck Fuentes.
"We want to make sure we have a sound policy in place on this serious issue," he said.
The extension on the temporary ban, put in place by the council on March 7, gives the Planning Commission more time to study any adverse impacts to the community and City Attorney Jamie Casso time to look into legal ramifications, said officials.
Fuentes said the city attorney is studying several lawsuits that reveal the difficulty in regulating these facilities.
For example, in the spring of 2005, the city of Fresno, one of four California municipalities that adopted a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, was sued for enacting the ban.
Also in October 2005, Americans for Safe Access filed lawsuits against the cities of Concord, Pasadena and Susanville for banning medical marijuana dispensaries.
Rebecca Saltzman, field coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based nonprofit that protects patients' access to medical marijuana, said cities should focus on developing regulations instead of passing moratoriums.
"It's better to regulate than place bans, because when a ban is too long, it's too long for a patient to wait," she said.
The council adopted the original ordinance because it had received several inquiries from parties interested in opening medical marijuana collectives, said Fuentes.
Officials also wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened in January 2002, when Imperial Showgirls, an all-nude strip club, opened in a family-oriented shopping center on Slauson Avenue.
At the time, the city didn't have a proper ordinance in place, so Showgirls was able to come in and the city was forced to accept certain conditions regarding its operation, said Fuentes.
"Once bitten, twice shy," said Fuentes. "This time we want to look at what our options are."
The council is also following the lead of Whittier's council, which approved an ordinance in January that allows medical marijuana dispensaries but only in commercial and industrial zones.
Before approving the ordinance, the Whittier council adopted a moratorium on the dispensaries while the city's attorney and planning staff worked out details of the new regulations.
However, in Whittier's case, its ordinance was adopted after a medical marijuana collective already had moved into a medical center without the city's knowledge.
Because of that, the city had no choice but to allow the Whittier Collective to continue operating in the medical center location.
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