Council to ponder pot dispensary ban
June 19, 2011
Melanie Hicken, Glendale News-PressThe City Council today will consider permanently banning marijuana dispensaries in Glendale after spending nearly two years vetting their legal standing to do so.
Medical marijuana dispensaries are prohibited under the city's zoning codes, but the City Council in 2009 adopted a moratorium to completely close Glendale's borders to the shops so city attorneys could review the legal issues associated with an all-out ban.
But that moratorium is set to expire in September and officials can no longer extend it, prompting city attorneys and police to recommend enacting a citywide ban similar to those in dozens of cities across the state.
There are no dispensaries within Glendale city limits, but city officials have said interest has increased in recent years. Glendale is also a virtual island in the Greater Los Angeles area. In 2007, 187 pot dispensaries registered to continue operating when the Los Angeles City Council approved a moratorium.
Glendale officials had been hoping that a decision by a state appellate court regarding Anaheim's ban on marijuana dispensaries would provide firm legal precedent. Instead, the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana sent a legal challenge of the city’s ban back to a lower court for further review.
Still, city attorneys say they are confident a ban in Glendale would be on solid legal footing.
“We know that the legal landscape is continuing to evolve; however, review of the cases to date help support the recommendation that we are making,” said Carmen Merino, general counsel for the Police Department.
In cities where dispensaries have been established, law enforcement agencies have reported increased burglaries, vandalism, illegal drug sales and other criminal behaviors, according to a report to the California Chiefs of Police Assn.
“It is a collective opinion that this is not good for our community,” said city spokesman Tom Lorenz. “It is a quality-of-life issue.”
Advocates of medical marijuana, meanwhile, continue to challenge outright bans as being counter to state law.
“It’s illegal under state law to ban outright this kind of activity,” said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. “Local governments should feel an obligation to address the needs of patients in their community and be able to regulate activity that is shown to be lawful under state law.”
Hermes also disputed assertions that pot dispensaries contribute to crime, citing interviews with public safety officials in cities where the shops are regulated that show the opposite.“These are public officials that are talking to us on the record. They’ve found that crime actually decreases around these facilities,” he said.