Auburn considers medipot ban

October 06, 2005

Michelle Miller, Auburn Journal

The Auburn City Council will consider an ordinance banning medicinal marijuana dispensaries at Monday night's meeting.

Although Auburn currently allows dispensaries in the city, a recent Supreme Court decision makes marijuana use illegal in states, including California, where it is used for medicinal purposes.

Back in 1996, California voters approved the "Compassionate Use Act," which allows approved patients and physicians to possess and cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes without fear of criminal prosecution.

In the years following, many cities were allowed to regulate where such dispensaries could be located and how they are operated.

An Auburn municipal ordinance approved by the council in 2004 prohibited dispensaries in certain districts and limited their proximity to schools, churches, parks and libraries.

"They could have been open all hours next to Placer High School or a church or residential neighborhood," said City Councilman Kevin Hanley, who supported the ordinance. "So we solved that problem."

Following the approval of this ordinance, several medicinal marijuana advocates contacted the city for more information on locating dispensaries in Auburn, said Police Chief Nick Willick.

However, none of them went through the process to get a permit, he said.

To complicate matters, in June the Supreme Court handed down a decision that found federal drug laws apply, even in states which have allowed medicinal marijuana.

Hanley asked that the issue be revisited, since Auburn is now apparently violating federal law.

"I don't like the situation of Auburn's municipal ordinance being at variance with federal law," he said. "The Drug Enforcement Agency has been conducting raids in California of dispensaries and I would want our local police to have a good working relationship."

Although he understands the medical benefits to patients, Hanley said the debate of whether dispensaries are legal should occur in the U.S. Congress, rather than in the states.

The new ordinance before the council uses the same language that has already been adopted in Roseville.

Marijuana access advocates have turned to suing cities that ban dispensaries, thus eliminating the ability for some to obtain marijuana locally.

Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based medical marijuana patient-advocacy group, has announced legal action against the cities of Concord, Pasadena and Susanville after their city councils banned dispensaries.

Hanley said he felt comfortable that banning dispensaries in Auburn would not violate the law since City Attorney Charles Wachob reviewed the ordinance.

Some in the medicinal marijuana community feel banning dispensaries limits options for those who could benefit from medicinal marijuana.

"I work with people who are very sick and not able to take regular medications. It's something that's been known to help and it's holistic," said "Anita," a representative of the Golden State Patient Care Collective in Colfax, who did not want to be identified. "It's really tragic that some people are not open to different types of healing."

The City Council meeting is held at 6 p.m. Monday at the City Hall Council Chambers, 1225 Lincoln Way in Auburn.

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