Council moves on medical marijuana ban
Colusa is exercising control over local jurisdiction to decide whether medical marijuana dispensaries should be allowed to operate in the city.
The City Council decided Tuesday to move forward with ordinances that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries.
On the same day, the state Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the legality of municipalities to limit such businesses.
The question is whether cities have the authority to ban a business that would offer a product the state has made legal.
Meanwhile, federal government holds that the possession and cultivation of marijuana for any purpose is illegal.
"For me, its more about preserving the way we live in Colusa and protecting our youth," said City Councilman Greg Ponciano. "Whether the state or federal feels that way, it's just the way I feel about my town and I'll defend it."
City Attorney Krysten Hicks said at this point municipalities still have the right to ban.
"With a zoning code amendment and municipal code together the city can clearly ban dispensaries," Hicks said at Tuesday's meeting.
Colusa is joined by 180 other cities, including Williams, that have banned dispensaries. Colusa County had a moratorium on dispensaries, which expired in March 2011.
"I don't believe it's healthy thing for our community, or a good fit at all. It's well chronicled that crime followed these things around," said Ponciano.
While a 2009 report from the California Police Chiefs Association said that marijuana dispensaries have been tied to organized criminal gangs, a more recent study may have debunked the idea that the businesses are linked to neighborhood crime rates.
A UCLA study looked at crime rates in 95 areas of Sacramento in 2009, including those with dispensaries. Researchers found that neighborhoods in Sacramento with dispensaries were no more likely to have crime than those without.
"I'm not in favor of medical marijuana. I'm not a proponent of it, I'm not a believer it in," said Ponciano. "There may be unique situations where its necessary, but I think its being abused."
Advocates for access to medical marijuana see it differently.
"Local dispensary bans thwart the will of the electorate and the state Legislature, and are therefore pre-empted by state law," Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access, said in a statement released on Tuesday. "Hundreds of thousands of California patients who are too sick or otherwise can't cultivate medical marijuana themselves, rely on dispensaries for safe and legal access, a right they should not be denied."
Patients seeking medical marijuana in Colusa will still be able to cultivate and possess marijuana.
To purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary, those with medical marijuana cards in Colusa have to travel more than 30 miles to storefronts in Chico or Clearlake.
Outlets for the medical marijuana have effectively been banned in Colusa since Feb. 15, 2011, with a series of moratoriums.
The city seeks to ban medical marijuana shops with a two-pronged approach. The first proposed ordinance would identifying medical marijuana dispensaries, collectives or cooperatives as prohibited.
The second identifies medical marijuana dispensaries as prohibited anywhere in the city.
The council will return for formal adoption of the ordinances at a later date, but it doesn't seem that they will wait for the state Supreme Court to produce a verdict on the legality of a ban.
"Its not my intention to wait," said Ponciano.
Hicks suggested the council revisit the ordinance if the state Supreme Court rules that state law trumps the rights of municipalities in this instance. The court has 90 days from Feb. 5 to make a decision.