Lompoc City Council expected to ban medical marijuana dispensaries

March 05, 2007

Neil Nisperos, Santa Maria Times

The Lompoc City Council, which meets Tuesday, will likely outlaw medicinal marijuana dispensaries, or “cannabis clubs,” from operating in town.

City leaders say they believe the operation of such dispensaries are contrary to the public health, safety and welfare, and violate federal law.

On Feb. 20, councilmembers unanimously approved the ordinance on first reading, following the recommendation of Police Chief Tim Dabney. Dabney said dispensaries in other California cities lead to an increase in loitering and more serious crimes.

“Some of these locations have been the scene of robberies, violent assaults and murders,” Dabney said Friday. “Some of the other agencies that have researched this have also reported mismanagement and criminal abuse by some of the operators of these dispensaries.

“Those facts from other agencies coupled with the Federal Drug Administration determination that marijuana has no medicinal value and that many physicians have said marijuana is a detriment to public health, far outweighs the public benefit.”

Councilman Mike Siminski agreed.

“I believe the reports that say that where these dispensaries have been established, they have been a nuisance,” Siminski said. “I'm also somewhat upset that the state and the federal governments haven't worked out compatible laws.”

In 2005, councilmembers approved a temporary urgency ordinance that banned marijuana dispensaries from operating in the city. The ordinance had been extended for the past two years.

The moratorium was needed because Lompoc does not currently have zoning restrictions on where a medicinal marijuana dispensary could be established. Without such zoning, a marijuana dispensary could be opened in any location zoned for retail, drug store, commercial enterprises or medical uses.

The urgency ordinance allowed time for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on California's medical marijuana laws in Ashcroft v. Raich, which officials hoped would clarify inconsistencies between federal and state possession laws for medicinal marijuana users.

The ruling said Congress has the power to prohibit the manufacture, distribution, and possession of marijuana pursuant to the United States Controlled Substances Act. The decision did not specifically invalidate the Proposition 215, which voters approved in 1996 to amend the California Controlled Substances Act to legalize the cultivation and possession of marijuana for medicinal use when recommended by a physician.

The State Senate later enacted SB 420 which allows local governments to control sites where the substance may be dispensed to patients and their primary caregivers.

In the past, city officials had received inquiries regarding business licenses for medicinal marijuana dispensaries, according to a city staff report.

Marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law and persons who act in accordance with Proposition 215 are subject to federal prosecution.

Santa Barbara County began issuing medicinal marijuana identification cards in 2004, as required by SB 420.

The City Council will take up the ordinance when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Neil Nisperos can be reached at 737-1059 or nnisperos@santamariatimes.com.



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