July 29, 2012

San Leandro City Council Does U-Turn on Marijuana Facilities

After lengthy discussions, two moratoriums, and a proposed ban on marijuana facilities with a sunset clause, the San Leandro City Council decided to reject a proposed ban on marijuana facilities at its meeting on July 16, 2012. An ordinance for regulating marijuana facilities will now go to the Rules Committee, where Councilmembers will work with staff to provide direction in crafting an ordinance. The members of that committee are Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Councilmembers Jim Prola and Diana Souza.

Nine speakers spoke against an ordinance banning marijuana facilities, including District 4 City Council candidate Chris Crow, who argued that a ban would violate the First Amendment rights of patients. District 2 City Council candidate Dan Dillman also spoke against the proposed ordinance. Three speakers spoke in favor of a ban, including Benny Lee, one of Crow's opponents.

Prola spoke at length against a ban on marijuana facilities, as he has done during previous discussions. Souza and Starosciak made it clear that they supported a complete ban, while Councilmember Pauline Cutter said that she would support the alternative to the ordinance banning marijuana facilities. Councilmember Ursula Reed admitted she had been “on the fence” about medical marijuana because she doesn't want to open the door on crime, despite having many friends and relatives who have cancer.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who had supported an ordinance banning marijuana dispensaries at previous meetings, joined the new majority opposed to a ban. Cassidy stated, “I'm also concerned, given the actions of the Assistant United States Attorney General for the Northern District of California [Melinda Haag], that the option of adequate nearby access for San Leandrans is at-risk and potentially disappearing. You cannot say that you are in support of medical marijuana but then not allow patients to have the opportunity to purchase it.... I think we have an Assistant [U.S.] Attorney General that is operating as a bully and I don't like bullies and I think San Leandro has to stand up and be accounted for in this process.

The City Council's decision went against City staff's recommendation to “add Municipal Code Chapter 4-33 prohibiting the establishment and operation of Medical Marijuana Cooperatives, Collectives, Dispensaries and Cultivation Facilities in the City of San Leandro.” At the end of the Law Enforcement Analysis section of the staff report, the San Leandro Police indicated its strong and absolute support of the ordinance banning marijuana facilities, stating “The San Leandro Police Department supports all efforts to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, cooperatives, collectives, cultivation, and grow facilities.”

The history of San Leandro's prohibitions of dispensaries dates back to December 2004 when the City Council enacted a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries to prevent one from opening in San Leandro. Subsequent ordinances were passed in January 2005 and January 2006. The moratorium lapsed in December 2006, but was reinstated in October 2010. A staff report in November 2010 recommended that the City Council enact a 22-month moratorium, but the City Council voted for a 10-month moratorium. In September 2011, that moratorium was subsequently extended until September 2012 and cannot be extended because the State of California places time limits on the urgency ordinance used to enact the moratorium.

At the June 18, 2012, City Council meeting, the staff report recommended an ordinance to permanently ban marijuana facilities so that a ban would be in place before the moratorium expired. Prola, however, offered a motion to delay consideration of the ordinance until after the California Supreme Court ruled on two relevant cases. Vice Mayor Michael Gregory seconded the motion, which was defeated 5-2. Councilmember Joyce Starosciak subsequently motioned to direct staff to draft an ordinance banning marijuana facilities, as recommended in the staff report. Souza seconded the motion, which failed 4-3. Councilmember Pauline Cutter also voted in favor of directing staff to draft an ordinance banning marijuana facilities. Cutter then offered what seemed to be a compromise, motioning to direct staff to draft an ordinance that would ban “medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives, dispensaries and cultivation facilities in the City of San Leandro” until June 30, 2013.” That motion passed 6-1, with Prola voting against it. The draft ordinance banning marijuana facilities was on the July 2, 2012, City Council agenda, but was pulled after the California Second District Court of Appeals ruled that a municipality could not impose a complete ban on medical marijuana facilities.

An ordinance to regulate marijuana facilities will be discussed at the August 28, 2012, meeting of the Rules and Communications Committee. The meeting is scheduled to start at 4:30pm, but no location was available as of July 29.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at July 29, 2012 1:57 PM | TrackBack
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