Long Beach City Council To Vote on Pot Ban Next Tuesday
ORIGINAL POST, Jan. 12, 3:30 PM: Rather than wait for a controversial court case to provide clarity on whether the city's medical marijuana ordinance is illegal--a ruling that won't come until Feb. 8--the Long Beach city council is expected to vote on whether to ban pot dispensaries at its Jan. 17 meeting. A previous vote to ban pot last month, which failed by one vote, had been suggested by the city attorney's office as a measure to protect the council from being arrested by federal drug agents. Although it's possible that the council may choose to delay their vote again, the fact that it has been scheduled for the upcoming agenda suggests otherwise.
After enacting a 2010 ordinance allowing cannabis collectives to cultivate and distribute marijuana in return for paying tens of thousands of dollars in various permitting fees, Long Beach was sued by patients whose non-permitted clubs were raided by police. This led to a Nov. 2011 court decision invalidating parts of the city's ordinance, which in turn led city attorney Robert Shannon to urge the council to ban pot clubs at its Dec. 13 meeting, arguing that to do otherwise would allow council members to be arrested and hauled off to jail.
However, council member Robert Garcia was absent that night, so his colleague Suja Lowenthal urged the council to reconvene when Garcia, who has been an outspoken advocate of medical marijuana, could participate. The Long Beach Collective Association (LBCA), a coalition of medical marijuana dispensaries that have received city permits, has been lobbying to convince the council to wait until after Feb. 8, when the California Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the city's pot ordinance.
"We have done a lot to try to make the ordinance work well for everyone and there is a certain level of frustration on behalf of those collectives that comply with the rules," said Carl Kemp, an LBCA spokesman. "To move forward with a ban is to ignore all the hard work the city staff and collectives have done with this permitting process . . . [and] to force people who have a legitimate need to go back into the dark alley to get their medicine."