Diamond Bar finds peace with one local dispensary
May 11, 2013
Andrew Edwards, Inland Valley Daily BulletinMany California that have taken a stand on the medical marijuana question have given firm "no" answers to those wishing to operate cannabis dispensaries, but this suburb has been an exception.
Diamond Bar, in contrast to many of its neighbors, has an ordinance that allows a single medical marijuana dispensary to operate within city limits. That privileged position is currently occupied by a dispensary calling itself Farm Assist Caregivers, which did not make anyone available to comment for this article.
Diamond Bar's 2006 ordinance was adopted at a time when California's marijuana laws were less clear than they are today. Despite the federal prohibition of marijuana, California's Proposition 215 and S.B. 420 respectively allowed state residents to use marijuana for medicinal purposes and allowed those patients to obtain identification cards to distinguish themselves from recreational users who enjoyed marijuana outside of the bounds of state law.
The seeming contradiction between state and federal law led to some doubt as to whether cities had the power to forbid medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within their limits. That in turn led to a strange situation in which some cities, such as San Bernardino, had bans in place while dispensaries have operated openly so long as officials could not be sure their efforts to enforce those bans would ultimately be upheld in court.
The California Supreme Court ended much of that doubt Monday when justices handed down a unanimous opinion upholding cities' power to prohibit dispensaries. Justices determined that state law allows medical marijuana patients to escape punishment for using a controlled substances, but state laws do not go as far as to make marijuana 100 percent legal.
In light of the new ruling, Diamond Bar Mayor Jack Tanaka said it may be time to reconsider the city's law. Although he has not been informed of any problems around Farm Assist Caregivers, Tanaka said Diamond Bar adopted the ordinance at a time when he and other city officials were not certain they had the power to forbid dispensaries.
"When it first got started, I wasn't happy with it," Tanaka said last week.
In the immediate aftermath of the court's ruling, however, Tanaka said there is no movement to create a ban on dispensaries and said "I think it's relatively soon" to look at changing Diamond Bar's law.
Diamond Bar Councilwoman Carol Herrera, like Tanaka, also said there has yet to be any talk of instituting an outright ban of dispensaries in her city. She said her opinion may be different if city officials faced the challenge of controlling several dispensaries, but a single dispensary is something she can live with.
"So, far the ordinance has worked well and all is peaceful in the city," Herrera said.
Unlike Diamond Bar, inland cities that have banned dispensaries include Upland, Ontario, Redlands and Riverside. Inland Empire Patient Health & Wellness Center and its legal dispute with Riverside over its ban was at the center of the case leading to Monday's state Supreme Court opinion.
Besides Diamond Bar, California cities where officials have chosen to regulate dispensaries instead of banning them include Northern California liberal havens such as San Francisco, Oakland and Eureka, according to Americans for Safe Access, an organization in favor of medicinal cannabis.
Americans for Safe Access' list also includes Palm Springs, where the city code allows a maximum of three dispensaries, and the San Bernardino County desert town of Yucca Valley. Yucca Valley Town Clerk Jamie Anderson said, however, the policy of allowing a single dispensary to operate is scheduled to expire in August.
Americans for Safe Access spokesman Kris Hermes said there is less worry within the organization that cities that have chosen to allow dispensaries will switch to banning them as there is concern localities that have instituted temporary bans will move to make them permanent. The group supports legislation to establish statewide medical marijuana regulations and clarify marijuana collectives' immunity from prosecution.Read more: http://www.dailybulletin.com/news/ci_23226046/diamond-bar-finds-peace-one-local-dispensary#ixzz2TCDFHOBk