City to consider ban of medical marijuana dispensaries

January 09, 2008

Julian J. Ramos, Lompoc Record (CA)

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Buellton could be prohibited under an ordinance scheduled for a public hearing and introduction at tonight's City Council meeting.

Buellton had a dispensary under the name Hezekiah Inc. on Second Street, which closed in either August or September after an eviction by the property owner, according to Planning Director Marc P. Bierdzinski.

The facility, which opened in January 2005, was raided by federal agents on July 26, 2007. Other federal search warrant raids of medical marijuana dispensaries occurred in the Los Angeles area the previous day. It was the only medical-marijuana dispensary in northern Santa Barbara County.

When the dispensary opened, there was nothing in the city code addressing the business. In response, the council unanimously approved an urgency temporary moratorium in March 2006 banning the establishment and operation of additional medical marijuana dispensaries within Buellton. The ordinance, effective for 45 days, prohibited the issuing of “any entitlements for the establishment or operation of a medical marijuana dispensary.” Under state law, an initial moratorium can only last 45 days. A month later, the council approved a one-year extension of the moratorium.

The council approved an extension of the previous moratorium in March 2007 through March 14, 2008.

The moratoriums have given the city time to review its zoning code, which does not include details for regulating marijuana dispensaries; develop potential zoning amendments; and research existing laws to determine the effect of potential congressional action. Staff has also studied crime related to medical marijuana dispensaries.

Solvang, Lompoc, Santa Maria, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach and San Luis Obispo all have passed similar ordinances.

It is a crime under federal and state law to manufacture, distribute, dispense or possess marijuana, but the state does make an exception for the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

In 1996, 56 percent of California voters approved Proposition 215, called the Compassionate Use Initiative, which allows marijuana to be used legally by qualified patients who receive a prescription from a doctor. It was the first statewide medical marijuana voter initiative adopted in the nation.

In a separate matter, the council is scheduled to recognize public works field worker Joe Meehan for his 20 years of service to the city.

Julian J. Ramos can be reached at 688-5522, Ext. 6008, or jramos@lompocrecord.com.



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