East Edition Herald American

Cities stiffen regulations on medicinal marijuana

DOWNEY — The City Council Jan. 12 joined surrounding cities in stiffening regulations banning marijuana dispensaries, generally by adding prohibitions against delivery and cultivation along with sales.

Norwalk did the same Jan. 5 and Santa Fe Springs is expected to take action on the issue Jan. 14.

Downey’s unanimous action came over the plea of a woman to postpone a decision pending possible state action to devise conditions for such shops, possibly by limiting their number under strict controls.

Irene Hoff spoke on the need for marijuana to help ease the discomfort of those seriously ill and noted that state law allows cities to tax dispensaries and could put the money to good use.

She added that the issue of recreational marijuana use is expected to be on the state ballot in November.

A man who would not give his name said he was neutral but noted that marijuana helped prolong the life of his brother who died of cancer.

Mayor Pro Tem Fernando Vasquez noted that his grandmother died of cancer, but said he would not be comfortable with a dispensary in the city until proper regulations can be devised between the state, where voters have approved medical marijuana use; and the federal government, which considers any use illegal.

“Just because you can’t get marijuana here doesn’t mean you can’t get it elsewhere,” Councilman Roger Brossmer said, noting that the use and sale of marijuana are two different issues.

In a report to the ouncil, Senior Planner Dave Blumenthal said Downey’s ban of marijuana dispensaries in 2011 did not include the cultivation and distribution provisions demanded by the state for cities which ban such shops. That’s because the state will take over regulation and licensing of marijuana dispensaries March 1 and wants city ordinances to follow the state rules.

The new state law does allow the establishment and licensing of marijuana dispensaries and gives cities which allow them the ability to tax them.

Planning commissions in both Downey and Norwalk have recommended approval of the ordinance.

Senior Norwalk Planner Beth Chow said if the council there gives final approval to the ordinance changes at its meeting Jan.19 it will become law in 30 days, meeting the state’s March 1 deadline for such action.

Chow explained that the changes, approved by the state and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in December call for licensing requirements for the cultivation, distribution and safety testing standards for medical marijuana.

If such requirements are not adopted, the state will take over control of medical marijuana shops, Chow warned.

The Downey council is expected to give final approval Jan. 26.

State laws regulating medicinal marijuana follow the approval by voters in 1996 of the Compassionate Use Act. Whittier previously allowed a dispensary in an industrial area in that city, but the shop is now closed as the owner was cited for marijuana sales violations in another city.

Most area cities have banned the dispensaries, citing problems such as burglary, robbery and fraud at such sites.

The new, more strict requirements, also regulate doctors who may prescribe medical marijuana, Chow said.