Simi council bans marijuana dispensaries

December 18, 2006

Teresa Rochester, Ventura County Star

A nearly two-year moratorium on businesses that sell marijuana to authorized patients in Simi Valley is now permanent.

The City Council on Monday night gave final approval to an ordinance prohibiting cannabis clubs within Simi Valley's borders.

In doing so, it joins the California cities of San Pablo, Susanville, San Rafael, Pismo Beach and San Marcos, which also have permanent bans.

The vote comes about 10 weeks before a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries was to expire Feb. 28. The vote was 4-0; Councilwoman Barbra Williamson was absent.

A temporary moratorium was initially approved in February 2005 after a Simi Valley man approached city officials about opening a dispensary. That vote made Simi Valley the first city in Ventura County to temporarily ban cannabis clubs. Other cities, including Moorpark and Oxnard, followed suit.

With passage of California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996, patients with a variety of illnesses can legally use marijuana medicinally, provided they have authorization from a medical doctor.

In Ventura County, voters approved the measure 128,333 to 118,670. In Simi Valley, it passed 19,418 to 18,564.

After the vote Monday night, Mayor Paul Miller said he had been asked last week after the council gave its preliminary OK to the ban if the body was going against the will of the people.

Miller said he responded "not in Simi Valley," and pointed out that no one spoke out against the ban.

But the act did little to lay out a workable, uniform infrastructure. Instead, the law encourages "the federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana."

Some cities have allowed the operation of dispensaries, and their experience was studied by Simi Valley's Police Department as it formed its decision to recommend a ban. Those cities have reported robberies outside dispensaries, traffic, loitering and sales to those who are not authorized to have medical marijuana.

Simi Valley City Attorney David Hirsch said in an interview last week that dispensaries also violate federal law, which prohibits the use of marijuana for any reason.

"The other issue is medical marijuana dispensaries have been demonstrated to cause adversary effects and secondary effects on other businesses," Hirsch said. "That also forms a basis for the prohibition."

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