Medical marijuana distribution centers in Arroyo Grande will be permanently banned if an ordinance introduced Tuesday receives final approval by the City Council.
Council members voted 5-0 to approve the introduction of an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries that would make the city’s current temporary ban permanent.
The ordinance must come back to the council for final approval, likely at the next meeting May 27.
The proposed ban drew no comments for or against it from the small audience at the meeting, and the city staff report said no public comments about the ban had been received prior to the meeting.
That lack of public comments could preclude any medical marijuana proponents from filing an appeal of the city’s decision.
Mayor Tony Ferrara in April asked the city staff to prepare an ordinance that would permanently ban dispensaries as the result of several actions taken by the League of California Cities.
Ferrara said that “without disputing the benefits of medical marijuana or the lack thereof,” the dispensaries should be banned because of their impacts on communities and their “very loose” regulation, with no government oversight.
A report to the council from Police Chief Steven Annibali said although California voters in 1996 approved Proposition 215, known as the Compassionate Use Act, marijuana remains illegal to grow, possess and use as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law.
He noted a number of court cases have upheld the illegality of state laws allowing medical marijuana use.
Annibali also cited a number of cities that have experienced problems with dispensaries, including Morro Bay and Palm Desert, where marijuana was sold “illegally” to undercover officers; Claremont, where a dispensary was burglarized and plants were stolen; and Santa Cruz, where dispensary owners shut down their operation because of “behavioral problems” in the neighborhood.
“Staff believes that medical marijuana dispensaries negatively affect the health, safety and welfare of the community and would pose an unnecessary burden on the city’s Police Department,” Annibali said.
All five council members expressed support for the ordinance.
“I don’t see this as something the city wants to be on the leading edge of,” said Councilman Jim Guthrie, citing the issues raised in Annibali’s report.
“I agree there are a lot of issues to be resolved at the federal level before we want to be on the cutting edge,” said Councilman Ed Arnold. “I’ve never heard anyone in the community say this is something they want to see.”
The City Council enacted an interim moratorium on the dispensaries in November 2004, then extended that ban in December 2005 to give city staff time to study the issue.
If the ordinance is ultimately approved, Arroyo Grande will join a growing list of Central Coast cities that have banned the dispensaries, including Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria and Buellton.