Ban against marijuana dispensary is extended
November 22, 2006
Stephanie Bertholdo, The Acorn (CA)The city of Agoura Hills has voted to continue the moratorium barring the operation of medical marijuana cooperatives in the city. City Council members agreed to extend the moratorium for two years, the maximum allowed for the temporary, stopgap measure. Craig Steele, Agoura Hills' city attorney, said that although the moratorium was extended to 2008 it could be repealed at any time. The action came in response to the closing of the Conejo Wellness Center, a cannabis distributor that allegedly operated under the guise of a copier business on Agoura Road. The dispensary was closed down because of lease violations. 'People who started the business had no right to start it,' Steele said. Steele said since Agoura Hills adopted the initial 45-day moratorium, several other cities and counties have launched legal action to determine whether municipalities and other agencies have the legal authority to regulate or prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries. Councilmember Dan Kuperberg said it was legally and fiscally prudent to extend the moratorium, but that it was not an easy issue. 'The voters in this state have spoken,' Kuperberg said of Proposition 215, an initiative that was passed 10 years ago in California to legally allow certain medical uses of marijuana. Kuperberg called for a more in-depth study of the issue before making a final decision on whether to allow or disallow cannabis cooperatives in the city. He wants the staff to study such issues as quality control and how to regulate and monitor dispensaries, and maybe even tax such establishments. 'It's better than selling it out of the back of your car,' Kuperberg said. He instructed the city's staff to talk to medical experts, the Wellness Community and oncologists to determine whether medical marijuana is a better choice for some serious illnesses than standard pharmaceutical drugs. 'Does it help, or does it make you feel better,' Kuperberg asked. 'Maybe it's good enough' to just feel better, he said. Since medical marijuana use is still a federal offense, some council members worried about the federal government taking legal action against cities if the council found in favor of medical marijuana cooperatives operating in the city. Steele said it was unlikely the federal government would take legal action against a city for allowing the use. The federal government, he said, would be more likely to get involved if the city tried to regulate the dispensaries or facilitate the operation directly. The council members instructed their staff to study the issue and report back within six months.