Livermore may ban medical marijuana clubs

November 22, 2006

Brian Foley,, ANG Newspapers

City officials are moving forward with plans to permanently ban medical marijuana dispensaries. The city's moratorium is scheduled to expire Sept. 11, 2007 after the council voted to extend it two months ago. City officials say that the City Council didn't want to wait until the last minute to make a permanent decision. 'We ran the course on investigating and researching and reached a critical point where we were able to come up with a recommendation for the council,' said city attorney John Pomidor. 'The council didn't want us taking it to the last moment.' On Nov. 13, the council voted 4-1 to instruct staff to draft a potential ordinance. 'We were unable to find a model or an example of a successful operation that didn't deal with secondary impacts,' said City Manager Linda Barton. Those secondary impacts include a reputation that dispensaries draw crime. On top of that, a problem looms for cities because of disparities between state and federal laws. While Proposition 215 legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes at the state level, the federal government regards the drug as illegal. Councilman Tom Reitter, the dissenting vote, favored communicating with the city of Oakland and its dispensaries before making a permanent decision. At the Nov. 13 meeting, a handful of opponents urged the council to show restraint. With Congress shifting to Democratic control, federal marijuana laws might change, they said. An Oakland attorney, James Anthony, lambasted the city's staff report that relied heavily on past negative incidents with dispensaries. Anthony called the report 'a hatchet job' that ignored positive aspects. He pointed to Oakland, which regulates, permits and oversees four successful dispensaries. '(The staff report) was very one-sided,' he said. 'It consisted of cut-and-paste horror stories associated with unregulated dispensaries.' Barbara Killey, an Oakland administrative hearing officer, confirmed that Oakland has 'had almost zero problems with dispensaries.' She said Livermore officials haven't contacted her. Livermore resident Michael Ferrucci, a medical marijuana patient, hopes for a strong turnout when the City Council formally votes on an ordinance. He said Tri-Valley residents who are sick shouldn't have to drive to Oakland or Hayward for medicine. 'I want to invite the public — cancer patients, M.S. patients, pain patients — to show up and have their eyes on the council as they take their medicine away,' he said. Pomidor expects city staff to present an ordinance before the council in January. In June, Dublin formally banned dispensaries and in July, Pleasanton extended its yearlong moratorium.

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