Millbrae to consider medical marijuana dispensary ban

February 07, 2010

Joshua Melvin, San Mateo County Times

Officials here will be the latest on the Peninsula to take on the issue of medical marijuana and whether its providers can operate in their city. The City Council is slated to consider an outright ban on the setting up of medical marijuana dispensaries, according to a staff report. Millbrae may be the first city in San Mateo County to look at closing the door completely to facilities that offer medical marijuana.

Both locally and statewide, cities have had to decide how to respond to the 1996 passage of voter-approved Proposition 215, which made medical marijuana legal. While some cities have set up rules governing how the clubs can operate in their borders, others — at least 85 and counting — have rejected dispensaries.

Under Millbrae's proposal, the City Council could decide to ban dispensaries. A staff report, which notes interest from potential dispensary operators as the reason for action, says the sites attract crime and provide dealers a source of marijuana. If the ordinance is adopted, certain state-licensed facilities such as clinics and hospices would be exempt from the prohibition, according to the report.

Other cities, including San Bruno and South San Francisco, have enacted temporary bans recently, saying they needed time to weigh their options before deciding whether to allow or ban medical marijuana collectives. None have passed outright bans. It is not clear if the city considers collectives and dispensaries to be synonymous. Millbrae city attorney Joan Cassman did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Mayor Paul Seto said he is interested in taking up the topic as soon as possible.

"Maybe we can be one of the first to figure out what we're going to do for the best of our city," he added.

However, Kris Kermes of medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access said bans of dispensaries, which he called a type of collective, are illegal. Currently, a lawsuit on the issue is making its way through the Fourth District Appellate Court in Santa Rosa. Medical marijuana dispensary Qualified Patients Association is battling with the city of Anaheim over whether or not they can operate there. Anaheim adopted a ban on dispensaries in 2007, according to the advocacy group.

The Millbrae City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. today in the council chamber, 621 Magnolia Ave.

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