Cypress narrowly approves medical marijuana ban

August 28, 2006

Slav Kandyba, Orange County Register

CYPRESS – A bloc of three council members was enough to overcome opposition from the mayor and mayor pro tem to narrowly approve a staff recommendation Monday changing the city's zoning law to prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from setting up shop.

There are no dispensaries known to operate in Cypress and none has ever operated. In 2004, the Police Department asked the city staff to look into the matter out of concern for potential problems that dispensaries may create, such as illegal drug sales and robberies.

Medical marijuana was legalized in California through a popular vote several years ago but the federal law still classifies marijuana as an illegal drug and federal law enforcement agencies have pursued both dealers and users.

"Right now the law is so up in the air it's hard to tell where it is going to come out," said City Attorney William Wynder, who contributed to the staff report used by the City Council to make the decision at Monday's meeting.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, Mayor Lydia Sondhi and Mayor Pro Tem Phil Luebben asked their council colleagues to join them in postponing any action on the matter. Sondhi asked the staff –Ted Commerdinger, acting community development director and a police representative in addition to Wynder – why no medical opinions were included in the staff report.

"What's ringing in my mind is this report is void of any (medical) opinion," Luebben added, saying he was against passing a "prophylactic-type law."

Council members Frank McCoy, Mike McGill and Todd Seymore sided with the staff, firm in their position despite a tear-filled plea from Sondhi – who was roiled by memories of friends who passed away from cancer – and several citizens who spoke in favor of medical marijuana during the hearing.

"My family suffers from fibromyalgia and I am facing a life of crippling," said speaker James W. Bush, saying he has used marijuana to ease the pain. "I don't want to be a criminal. I don't want to go behind the law."

The cities of Placentia and Tustin have passed 45-day moratoriums in an effort to sort out the discrepancies among the laws governing marijuana, a battle that has been waged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Tustin, the council passed an urgency ordinance in February after a clinic was shut down by police because an undercover officer was able to buy marijuana without a prescription.

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