Does Long Beach Really Have to Ban Marijuana Dispensaries?

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Ever since a pair of Long Beach medical-marijuana smokers won a Sept. 24 ruling that threw the city's ordinance regulating cannabis clubs into doubt, rumors have abounded that Long Beach, whose 2010 ordinance allowed pot clubs to operate if they won a $14,000 permit, will soon ban all dispensaries. Cities throughout the state are watching to see what happens as they decide how to respond, and the Long Beach City Council is expected to hear an update on a proposed ban at its Dec. 12 meeting.

Not so fast, argues the Long Beach Collective Association, a group of local dispensaries that yesterday handed the council a document detailing how the city can change its ordinance to comply with state law.

According a story yesterday in Village Voice Media's marijuana blog, Toke of the Town, the group believes that while the court ruling -- known as the Pack decision and named after one of the plaintiffs, Ryan Pack -- may not allow the city to issue permits requiring dispensaries to cultivate a plant that's illegal under federal law (this is what Long Beach's ordinance effectively did), the ruling doesn't necessarily mean the city has to shut the clubs down.

"This document amends the current ordinance in a way in which we believe allows the City of Long Beach to be in compliance with the rulings in the 'Pack decision' and allows those collectives that were authorized under the current ordinance to continue to exist," lobbyist Carl Kemp told Toke of the Town, which reports that the document - -a so-called "third option" that falls somewhere between banning pot clubs and doing nothing -- was requested by Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal at the Nov. 1 meeting.

"Though it hasn't been easy over the past two years, the Long Beach City Council has demonstrated leadership in the area of creating legislation that legitimizes the needs of those in need of medical marijuana," Kemp added. "We took the request to come up with a third option seriously and paid our legal team to come up with something we believe is a solid starting point."

It will be interesting to see how the proposal fares at next week's meeting, given that the city attorney's office will most likely be urging the council to prohibit the clubs, despite the lawsuits that would undoubtedly be filed if such an action were taken. Activists who oppose such a move and hope to convince the city to take a more measured approach are planning to speak in numbers.

Stay tuned.


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