|City Council Defies Court - Full Steam Ahead on Dispensary Permitting
November 16, 2011
At last night’s City Council meeting, the City Council was asked for a policy decision on how to proceed with respect to marijuana dispensaries in light of the Pack decision (Pack v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (City of Long Beach), 2011 WL 4553155 (Cal. App. 2 Dist).
The City of Long Beach had enacted a comprehensive regulatory and permitting ordinance similar to Richmond’s, and the Court found that the Long Beach ordinance was an obstacle to the Compassionate Use Act and is preempted by federal law. The Pack court determined that a city cannot require a permit as a condition of operating a collective in a city.
A good analysis of the legal issues has been provided by the League of California Cities. Click here.
The City Council was faced with several choices, including:
On a 4-3 vote, the City Council decided, against all legal advice, to proceed with the riskiest choice of all, continuing with Richmond’s permitting process that the Pack Court had found to be illegal.
In an interesting side note, I received about a hundred emails the last couple of days with the subject “Don't ban safe access to medical cannabis in our city.” Apparently, Richmond is everybody’s city, because none of the emails were from Richmond residents. The example below is from San Francisco, and all the others were from cities around the bay Area except for Richmond. Incidentally, the legal analysis in the email was found to be inaccurate and flawed.
Dear Council Member,
In response to the October 4, 2011, decision by the Second Appellate Court in Pack vs. City of Long Beach, you and your colleagues may be considering significant changes in our medical cannabis policy. In this conversation, you must take into consideration that using this decision to influence your decisions will substantially inhibit the ability of legal patients to acquire and use cannabis for medical purposes. That is not what voters wanted when they adopted Proposition 215, calling on elected representatives “to implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.”
Most of the legal patients in our community rely on cooperatives and collectives for safe and reliable access to their doctor-recommended medicine. Banning medical cannabis patients’ associations or delaying implementation of local regulations means many patients will not get the medicine they need today to treat the symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, and other serious conditions.
Furthermore, it is important to understand the following points from the Pack decision, when considering how it will impact our regulatory process:
1. The Pack decision does not strike down local cannabis ordinances in their entirely, but only portions that involve “permitting” of cooperatives and collectives. Regulations regarding safety, operations, and locations are not prohibited.
2. The Pack decision is not yet final under California law. The City of Long Beach is seeking an appeal before the California Supreme Court.
3. The narrow finding of federal preemption in the Pack decision likely applies only with in California’s Second Appellate District.
4. The Pack decision continues to uphold the right of municipalities to consider the decriminalization of medical cannabis access centers.
Research conducted by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical cannabis patients’ advocacy organization, shows that sensible regulations for medical cannabis reduce crime and complaints. Please read more from ASA about the Pack decision at http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Pack_Letter.pdf
Please continue to uphold regulations that provide California medical cannabis patients with access to their medication though legal cooperatives and collectives.
As I have said many times, I have no objections to medical marijuana collectives operating as small groups pursuant to the Compassionate Use Act. I am, however, suspicious of large commercial profit making cannabis stores that rake in millions of dollars. I find it particularly ironic that my colleagues who have railed against the 1% are bent on setting up a scheme that will create a new class of one percenters enriched by the cannabis trade in Richmond.