Long Beach tightens up medical pot law
By Paul Eakins | Published in Long Beach Press Telegram
Medical marijuana advocates came close to getting some leeway Tuesday in the city’s marijuana regulations, but fell one vote short of a more lenient version of the law.
The council voted 5-4 to finalize an amended ordinance that prohibits medical marijuana collectives from being within 1,000 feet of parks, among other requirements. The council had already approved a law in March that outlawed collectives near schools, in residential areas or near one another, but decided to make it more restrictive.
The change is expected to force 11 collectives or cultivation sites to close, leaving 26 citywide, mostly in the western half of Long Beach.
The original law also required that collectives go through a permitting process, and that process hadn’t been completed when the council decided late last year to alter the ordinance.
Council members Rae Gabelich, Steve Neal, James Johnson and Dee Andrews voted against the amendment. The council also voted 7-2, with Gabelich and Andrews dissenting, to establish a one-year moratorium on issuing new medical marijuana permits.
“I continue to oppose the changes in this ordinance because it changes the playing field midstream,” Gabelich said. She added that changing the ordinance opens the city to more litigation.
Long Beach was already facing seven lawsuits over the law, and Deputy City Attorney Mike Mais said that an eighth lawsuit was filed this month.
Johnson voted against the law for a different reason from the others, maintaining his position that the city should restrict the number of collectives to two in each of the nine council districts so that no area has an over-concentration of them.
Other aspects of the new regulations are a 45-day public comment period on proposed collective locations, after which the council will have a hearing to determine whether the collectives should be allowed; a requirement that video surveillance systems be installed; and limiting collectives’ hours of operation to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Each collective also will have to submit an annual audited report on revenues, expenditures and operational costs.
Also Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to schedule a meeting of the Charter Amendment Committee, which is composed of the entire council, to discuss a proposal by Council members Gerrie Schipske and Gary DeLong to create a “sunshine” charter amendment for negotiations with employee groups.
As Long Beach faces ongoing budget deficits and rising employee pension costs, labor groups’ contracts and the benefits they receive will likely receive more scrutiny.
Schipske said the amendment would require the proposals initially made by the city and its labor groups to be made public at the beginning of negotiations, and at the end of negotiations the public would have a chance to review the contracts before they’re approved.