City expected to bar pot clinics

December 18, 2006

Larry Parsons, Monterey County Herald

Twenty-four California cities allow medical marijuana dispensaries, but Marina isn't about to join them.

The city would amend its zoning laws to prohibit medical marijuana outlets if the City Council follows a strong recommendation today from city staff members.

"The staff and the police chief say the law is just not definitive enough that we should do this," Mayor Ila Mettee-McCutchon said Monday. "The residents would not like us to go there."

After an inquiry earlier this year about whether Marina would allow a medical marijuana outlet, the council enacted temporary moratoria against them to allow city staff members time to research the issue.

"I'm not sure who was behind it," said Elizabeth Caraker, city planning services manager. It likely was a medical marijuana advocacy group because Seaside received a similar inquiry about the same time, she said.

Hearings at the time on the temporary moratoria didn't attract large numbers of people or extensive debate.

"I'm not sure what to expect (today)," Caraker said.

The mayor said she has heard from residents who would oppose a medical marijuana dispensary, but nothing from anyone who wants one in Marina.

Ongoing and unresolved conflict between the state and federal governments over regulation of medical marijuana is a primary reason Marina officials recommend against allowing marijuana clinics to the city.

"There are many cases going through the courts," said planner Nancy Hutar. "The issue is not over."

California law is generally supportive of the concept. State voters in 1996 approved the use of marijuana for legitimate medical purposes. And a 2004 state law set up a system for local governments to identify patients and qualified caregivers, but left open the issue of local dispensaries.

At present, 24 cities and four counties, including Oakland, Berkeley, Auburn, Citrus Heights and Palm Springs, allow medical marijuana outlets. Another 49 cities and two counties have enacted laws forbidding them.

But in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal enforcement of anti-marijuana laws is valid even if the use and cultivation of medicinal marijuana complies with California law. Federal drug agents have continued to raid marijuana clinics.

Meanwhile, the federal courts haven't ruled on pending cases involving due-process and medical-necessity arguments in favor of the use of medical marijuana.

"Allowing such dispensaries would openly subject them to federal... raids and prosecution," Hutar said in a council report.

Moreover, Marina police officials are against medical marijuana dispensaries because of unresolved legal issues and the possible need for increased safety services and personnel, the council report says.

The report also says allowing such outlets could harm the city's economy and conflict with Marina general plan policies calling for a pedestrian-oriented community with vibrant commercial districts.

"While medical marijuana may provide a health benefit, the sale of a single, nontaxable good for a limited number of residents would not support these general plan principles," the report concludes.


If you go • What:Marina City Council • When:6:30 p.m. today • Where:211 Hillcrest Ave., Marina


Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or lparsons@montereyherald.com.


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