Santa Monica Extends Moratorium On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Tuesday, 30 Oct 2012, 2:05:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

A moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in Santa Monica originally set for 45 days will now be extended for a complete calendar year, as the City Council approved last Tuesday a 10 month 15 day extension to place into a holding pattern the issuing of business licenses, entitlements, or permits to companies seeking to issue the substance for medicinal purposes.

The 320-day extension comes exactly three weeks after council members unanimously approved the 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries coming into Santa Monica.

City staff recommended the moratorium based upon “uncertain state of California law, the lack of local regulatory oversight, statements by federal prosecutors that challenge local authority to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, and the adverse secondary effects experienced by other cities.”

The ordinance passed Oct. 2 “became effective immediately,” City staff said, adding “the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries constituted a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety, or welfare.”

Council members considered the 10 month and 15 day extension as the original moratorium was set to expire Nov. 16; the council does not meet again until Nov. 13.

 Under California law, the council could extend the moratorium prior to its expirations if “there remains a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety or welfare” for a maximum time of 22 months and 15 days, effectively making it a two-year holding pattern.

However, the 10 month and 15 day extension was deemed sufficient time “to allow staff the opportunity to meet with the community and continue to assess the various legal and legislative options available and appropriate for the City.”

 City staff added a few actions items have been taken since council members passed the 45-day moratorium three weeks ago. Those action items included a collection of ordinances regulating medical marijuana dispensaries from other cities within the State and gathering “studies on secondary impacts associated with medical marijuana dispensaries.”

In addition, city staff also informed council members they would keep up with new developments in federal and state law and keep an open line of communication with “regulating dispensaries with interested parties.”

A community meeting on the issues hosted by City Hall is scheduled for Jan. 24.

Finally, city staff hopes to use the extra time to help “ensure that regulations authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries can be implemented so as not to result in harmful effects to the businesses, property owners, and residents of the City.”

City staff recommended the initial 45-day moratorium due to a recent wave of inquiries received from entities seeking to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Monica.

“The City’s Zoning Ordinance currently does not contain regulations governing the establishment, location, and operation of medical marijuana collectives. And, the law governing the City’s authority to adopt and enforce such regulations is, for the time being, extremely uncertain,” city staff told council members in a report earlier this month.

Council member Terry O’Day was not present at the Oct. 23 meeting at City Hall.

This was also the final council meeting prior to the Nov. 6 general election, where four seats on the dais are up for grabs. The current council meets one last time after the election before transitioning to a new panel in December.

Mayor Richard Bloom and Council member Bobby Shriver will not be returning to the council.

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