Published on NBC Los Angeles.com
The Orange County Board of Supervisors directed its legal staff Tuesday to draft an ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, saying they wanted to be prepared in case voters approve Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in the state.
The directive came after the board rejected another bid to impose a 45-day moratorium on permits for medical marijuana collectives or dispensaries in the county. Supervisors Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach voted against the moratorium, leaving it short of the four votes it needed.
Moorlach said there was no urgency for county officials to issue a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, because nobody has asked for the required special use permit.
“I’m just sort of baffled why there’s an urgency for a moratorium when no one’s asking for the use permit,” Moorlach said.
County officials want a new ordinance because there is nothing on the books specifically telling applicants what is required for a special-use permit to operate a medical marijuana dispensary.
Supervisor Patricia Bates said she was worried about not having a plan in place by Jan. 1 if voters approve Proposition 19.
“I don’t want to turn people away and then get lawsuits,” Bates said.
According to county staff, 11 medical marijuana dispensaries are operating in Orange County without the required special use permit. Only one application for a permit was submitted, but it was withdrawn.
Moorlach said county code enforcement or sheriff’s officials could enforce the law already in place.
But Orange County Public Works Director Jess Carbajal said the county’s requirements “don’t have a lot of teeth,” because the federal government has said it won’t enforce laws against medical marijuana. He said it is difficult for code enforcement or prosecutors to effectively crack down on the businesses since “most of these businesses close down and pop up somewhere else overnight.”
The supervisors unanimously supported Moorlach’s motion to direct staff to draft a new ordinance, with amendments from Bates and Nelson to have the draft ready by Nov. 9 and to explore how to tax marijuana if voters approve Proposition 19.