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Santa Monica Will Consider Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

August 15, 2013 -- The City Council will vote on whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within Santa Monica's borders as early as the beginning of next year.

In a 4-to-3 vote, the Council narrowly sanctioned drafting an ordinance -- allowing a limited number of dispensaries in specific locations in the bayside city -- to be heard in December as part of the City's overall zoning update.

While the Council was divided over the long-term future of dispensaries in Santa Monica, the Council unanimously extended a temporary moratorium on them for up to another year while the ordinance is being drafted.

“Our intent here has always been to prevent the proliferation of dispensaries before we have code in place” to regulate them, McKeown said of the moratorium.

McKeown has come out in support of allowing dispensaries in Santa Monica so long as they are regulated, pointing to the fact that the use of medical marijuana, while illegal by Federal statutes, is protected by California law.

“We've seen what happens in other cities if it is done thoughtlessly,” he said, adding that he believes people who rely on medical marijuana shouldn't have to go to other towns to get it.

Venice Beach, a Los Angeles neighborhood to the south of Santa Monica, is famously host to a number of dispensaries.

Recently, Los Angeles voters adopted a measure to allow about 130 dispensaries to operate within its borders months after its City Council passed a ban on them. (“Santa Monica City Council Prepares to Take Up Marijuana Dispensaries Again,” August 8)

Though McKeown enjoyed support from Councilmembers Ted Winterer, Tony Vazquez and Gleam Davis, the future of medical marijuana sales in Santa Monica remains a controversial one.

Councilmember Bob Holbrook, a pharmacist, remains a staunch opponent of medical marijuana, saying that he would oppose any ordinance that allows its sale within Santa Monica.

Holbrook said that dispensaries have been problematic in other cities and that medicinal marijuana is readily available just across Santa Monica's borders.

Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day and Mayor Pam O'Connor joined Holbrook in opposing McKeown's motion for staff to draft a pro-dispensary ordinance.

Tuesday's conversation provoked some passions among the crowd, as well. The Council even had to adjourn briefly after one speaker, who claimed to be the basis for the title character in the film “The Big Lebowski,” refused to stop speaking long after his two minutes were up, repeatedly asking the Council what the basis for prohibiting dispensaries in Santa Monica would be.

Whether or not Santa Monica decides to adopt an outright ban on dispensaries, it's clear that the city is well within its rights to do so.

A recent decision by the California Supreme Court upheld the rights of about 200 cities to use zoning ordinances to prevent medical pot shops from selling in town.

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