Azusa council poised to approve ban on pot dispensaries

, Associated Press

AZUSA, Calif. -- The city is poised to join several others across California in banning medical marijuana dispensaries.

The City Council planned to vote Tuesday on an ordinance designed to prohibit the so-called "pot clubs." Officials approved the new rule unanimously on its first reading last month.

Council member Keith Hanks said he understands that marijuana helps people who are sick, but the dispensaries can open up the possibility of abuse in the system.

"How do you become a legal possessor of marijuana and show that you only have it to distribute for helping people who are sick? How can the police enforce the marijuana control laws? They're put in a difficult position," he said.

But advocates for the clubs say regulating them is more effective than banning them.

"In many of the 27 cities and six counties (statewide) that have allowed dispensaries, they reduced crime and reduced complaints and helped patients," said Don Duncan, the Southern California coordinator for Americans for Safe Access.

If the ordinance is approved, Azusa would join several other cities that outlaw the dispensaries, including Pasadena, or have enacted moratoriums that prevent marijuana cooperatives from coming to town.

The measure reads, "Any business, operation or use that cannot be conducted or carried out without being in violation of state or federal law shall be prohibited."

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, legalizing the drug for therapeutic use. In 2003, state legislation was approved allowing counties to issue identification cards to medical users to protect them from prosecution by local law enforcement.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that federal authorities could still seize and destroy marijuana stashes and arrest growers and consumers even in the 11 states that allow medical marijuana use.

Federal law prohibits any marijuana use.