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California Coastal Commission Rejects Medical Marijuana Collective Amendments

Daily Dose 2011-01-20 0 comments

City officials say they aren’t going against a state law that allows medical marijuana use, and they’re only regulating the retail sale of cannabis.

By Barbara Diamond |  Published in Coastline Pilot

The California Coastal Commission has rejected Laguna Beach’s zoning ordinance amendments that would have prohibited medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.The commission voted 6 to 5 at the Jan. 12 to 14 meeting in Long Beach to deny the proposed amendment as submitted, disregarding a staff recommendation for approval.

Some commissioners voiced concern that the amendment clashes with state law that allows the use of medical marijuana, but others were convinced that that was not within the commission’s purview.

As recommended by the city’s Planning Commission, the amendments prohibit dispensaries in any zone in Laguna Beach and all zones were to be updated to reflect the prohibition.

“I am baffled by the commission’s decision,” Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman said. “This is wide-ranging. It affects cities up and down the coast.”

City Atty. Philip Kohn considers the Coastal Commission’s vote much ado about nothing.

“We could decide to put the prohibition in another section of the city code that is not subject to Coastal Commission approval,” Kohn said. “It is still a valid local regulation, just not part of the Local Coastal Program.”

Planning Manager Ann Larson, who represented the city at the Coastal Commission hearing, testified that the city’s legal advisors had opined that the amendments did not conflict with state law. The law, in effect since 1996, legalized the use of medical marijuana and was later refined to include a statewide identification card system for qualified patients.

“We do not propose to limit people’s ability to operate under the law,” Larson told the Coastal Commission.

She said the city’s prohibition only extends to retail sales of cannabis, which the state program does not even mention, let alone authorize collectives, cooperatives or individuals to profit from the sale or distribution of marijuana or by-products.

“And the commission has previously approved bans in other cities,” Larson said.

The City Council voted unanimously in September 2009 in favor of two ordinance amendments to the zoning code that combined to prohibit dispensaries within Laguna’s borders, a decision supported by the Laguna Beach Unified School District and individual members of the administration and the board.

Laguna Beach High School Principal Don Austin said he had 1,042 reasons for his opposition to legalizing medical marijuana — the students at his school.

Kohn said city officials will be discussing what effect, if any, the commission’s decision will have on the city.