Los Angeles Times Examines Cities’ Efforts To Regulate, Ban Medical Marijuana Clubs
The Los Angeles Times on Saturday examined how some cities throughout the state are taking steps to prevent new medical marijuana clubs from opening as officials work to devise ways to regulate the clubs. According to the Times, crime, marijuana arrests and illicit drug dealing have increased in communities that have allowed the establishment of cannabis clubs since California voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996. Under Proposition 215, state residents can use marijuana for medical reasons with a doctor's recommendation.
In an effort to reduce the corresponding crime rate and enact regulations for the cannabis clubs, several cities -- including San Francisco, Modesto, Ontario, Huntington Beach and West Hollywood -- in the last two months have imposed moratoriums on new club openings. Although some cities "say they are just interested in temporary freezes on the clubs that would allow them to fix problems or create regulations, other cities are pondering permanent bans," the Times reports.
For example, Rocklin in Northern California banned the clubs outright last year because of such problems, and city officials say they have sent copies of the ordinance banning marijuana dispensaries to more than 50 interested cities.
Rocklin Police Chief Mark Siemens said, "We thought the simplest process was to ban this type of business because it is federally illegal to distribute marijuana under whatever guise," adding, "We didn't want to be in a position of using local policing and zoning authorities to license or screen an illegal business venture."
Advocates for medical marijuana oppose permanent bans, although some say they are not opposed to temporary moratoriums.
Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance in Oakland, said, "There's a sense that there needs to be regulations and controls to ensure the dispensaries provide quality services and are being good neighbors." He added, "But simply prohibiting them leads to bad results for everyone. If you permanently ban dispensaries, you're essentially driving them underground, and you lose all ability at regulating them."
San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said, "A compassionate city would open up to these clubs. Why should they operate in the shadows when we can legitimize them by developing regulations that make them part of our mainstream culture?"
Meanwhile, leaders of some cities say they are awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision on medical marijuana laws in California and 10 other states to decide whether to enact permanent bans.
"I prefer not to have [cannabis clubs] in the community at all," Ontario Mayor Pro Tempore Alan Wapner said, adding, "If the federal court comes out against them, I'd like to pass a motion to ban them completely" (Becerra, Los Angeles Times, 4/2).