Senator Lou Correa, Author of Vetoed Medical Marijuana Restrictions Bill, Just Wanted to Help

September 21, 2011

Chris Roberts, SF Weekly

Medical marijuana advocates celebrated Wednesday with Governor Jerry Brown's veto of SB 847. The brainchild of State Senator Lou Correa (D-Orange County), the bill would have made a 600-foot barrier between medical cannabis dispensaries and homes state law (except in cities or counties with their own zoning laws, like San Francisco). In his veto message, Brown said that such specific zoning requirements are the jobs of local, not state government. And marijuana organizations, like Americans for Safe Access, claimed victory, saying that grassroots activity -- such as phone calls and e-mails to Brown's office -- help persuade Governor Moonbeam.
But that's not how Correa sees it.

Numerous cities and towns across California are grappling with the dispensary question, with some -- including Anaheim and Santa Ana, both in Correa's district -- going to the courts to solve it.  "This is not an antipot bill ... this bill would have stopped the fights [regarding dispensaries] from happening," Correa said Wednesday. "I'm still trying to figure him [Brown] out."

The idea was to simultaneously respect the will of the voters -- who with 1996's Proposition 215 said they wanted medical marijuana in California -- and respect the will of California residents "who don't want smoke 'round them," Correa told SF Weekly.

"Both could live happily ever after," he said.

Correa says he worked with proponents of medical marijuana to hammer out a zoning bill that everyone could agree with. That might be true, but it's worth noting Correa's bill received little love from the local delegation to the Legislature: Every local representative was on lopsided losing votes against the bill with the exception of San Francisco's Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (whose 12th Assembly District has one dispensary on Geary Boulevard, less than 600 inches from residential zones).

While perhaps not well-suited to urban areas, the bill does not impact, affect, or otherwise have anything to do with places where dispensary regulations are on the books. And, Correa noted, he introduced a letter that stated that the law does not apply to somebody "who grows his stash in the backyard -- legally -- in his own home."

In the grand scheme of things, the bill might not have mattered much, even if it passed: The big fish is the case of Qualified Patients Association vs. Anaheim, in which a group of SoCal dispensary operators are challenging whether or not cities have the right to ban dispensaries from within their limits. That imbroglio is headed to the state Court of Appeals -- but future fights might have been avoided if Correa's law passed, he claims.

"This stops fights from happening. Everybody was with it -- and the governor vetoed it!" Correa lamented. "He botched it -- and he knows it."

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