City commission recommends legalizing medical pot shops

June 10, 2008

Melonie Magruder, The Malibu Times

At its June 3 meeting, the newly appointed Planning Commission, against the advice of a staff report, voted to recommend the City Council allow the operation of three medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. The recommendation will go before the City Council on July 14.

There are two dispensaries, Green Angel and PCH Collective, currently operating in Malibu. The City Council established a moratorium on any new facilities two years ago, which expires this month.
If the City Council approves the recommendation, the two dispensaries will be able to stay in business, and a third party can apply to the city to open a dispensary.

<!-- aCampaigns = new Array(); aCampaigns[92] = 100; aAds = new Array(); nAdsysTime = new Date().getTime()/1000; document.usePlayer = 1; if ((nAdsysTime >= 1206594000) && (nAdsysTime <= 1522213199)) { aAd = new Array('+instory', '120989-1206650772', 'gif'); aAd[3] = ''; aAd[4] = '1'; aAd[6] = '1'; aAd[7] = 10; aAd[8] = 0; aAd[9] = 92; aAd[10] = 0; aAd[11] = 0; aAds[aAds.length] = aAd; } adsys_displayAd('', '', aAds, aCampaigns); // --> The commission recommended several restrictions on the dispensaries, including that marijuana not be used on the premises, the dispensaries have security guards and that they dispense only to qualified patients with doctor recommendations (they are not called prescriptions, as federal law prohibits prescriptions for marijuana).

The vote in favor of legalization was 3-2, with commissioners Jeff Jennings, Joan House and John Mazza supporting the dispensaries. Commissioners Regan Schaar and Ed Gillespie, who had concerns about the ambiguous federal legal status of the issue and were unsure about the dispensaries having enough security, cast the dissenting votes.

The staff report, prepared by city contract planner Kathleen Mallory, had recommended the dispensaries, known as collectives, be prohibited. She cited concerns over reported criminal activity outside of dispensaries in other cities, possible noise and traffic congestion, and the fact that law enforcement agencies in other parts of the state have found that marijuana purchased from dispensaries was being resold for nonmedicinal use.

Schaar opened the debate by recounting an incident she had experienced that day after taking her children to an event at a location next to the Green Angel dispensary, located at the 21000 block of Pacific Coast Highway.

"We had to shut the windows because the smoke from marijuana being consumed at the collective outside was filling the room," Schaar said. "It made me sick. You could smell it all over the building. This is blatant abuse and my kids were there."

Schaar expressed profound concern for the ongoing affect such public use would have on other children, if legally permissible.

Typically, medical marijuana dispensaries do not permit onsite consumption and it is prohibited at the only other Malibu dispensary, PCH Collective, located at the 22000 block of the highway.

But the bulk of public commentary came from citizens who supported the legal operation of such collectives, ranging from residents who used medical marijuana to relieve pain and ameliorate symptoms of serious illness to legal scholars and to compassionate use advocacy organizations, such as Americans For Safe Access.

There was no public commentary from anyone supporting a ban on the dispensaries.

Jonathan Horn, who has multiple sclerosis and spoke from his wheelchair, said, "After 20 years of using every addictive drug there is to help me function, my neurologist suggested marijuana would have an antispasmodic effect, with no downside. By using it I separated myself from those powerful prescription drugs, and I am dramatically healthier."

Horn, who frequents PCH Collective, said he has never seen onsite consumption there.

"And you never see a bunch of stoned knuckleheads there," Horn said. "They follow the law there, and the people of California said people like me can purchase marijuana and use it out of compassion."

In 1996, California voters enacted Proposition 215, the "Compassionate Use Act," which permits marijuana to be recommended and used for medical purposes. Since then, thousands of Californians have obtained doctors' recommendations for use of the drug.

However, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency claims that federal law prohibits marijuana distribution or use of, and has raided dispensaries throughout California, usually because of complaints of dispensary-provided usage near schools or other public places.

Don Duncan, who is the California director of Americans for Safe Access, said, "The California Attorney General has said that federal law does not supersede state law. Other communities have dealt with these issues through strict enforcement of regulatory power, which I urge you to adopt."

Duncan said reports from cities and counties who have adopted strict regulations on security and hours of operation have seen overwhelmingly positive developments in the community.

"Proper regulation is a proven tool for ensuring safe access for people who need this medicine," he said. "And you'll be fulfilling voter mandate."

Alessandra DeClario implored the commission not to ban local dispensaries and described a patient who, with the help of medicinal marijuana, was able to go from being a housebound invalid to working regularly.

"I cannot describe the suffering I've seen in patients who can't take regular drugs," DeClario said. "For some, medical marijuana is the only option for a normal life."

Schaar asked local Sheriff's officials how they felt about the issue of people driving under the influence of marijuana.

Public liaison officer Lt. Debra Glafkides said, "Driving under the influence is illegal and we enforce laws on the books."

Glafkides also suggested that there were gray areas under which the Compassionate Use Act operated.

On one hand, it is legal to use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, but on the other, "growth and transport of marijuana is illegal," she said.

Glafkides could not cite any instances of traffic or security problems around the two Malibu collectives, but said, "Our job is to enforce the laws on the books, which we will do."

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