Medical marijuana dispensaries that want to open shop in Santa Monica are out of luck for at least the next 45 days.
The City Council issued a moratorium on the approval of any business licenses or permits for medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday night, with city staffers calling the operations a "risk to the public peace, health and safety."
The moratorium is supposed to be temporary, but can be extended up to 22 months.
Because Santa Monica's existing zoning codes don't permit or contain any regulations for dispensaries—and because the courts have ruled cities can't flat out ban them—the moratorium will give planning staffers time to suss out the city's options, according to Amanda Schachter, the city's planning manager.
Councilman Kevin McKeown did, however, criticize a report from city staffers that he contends was one-sided. He said he half-expected staffers would play Reefer Madness at the meeting, a 1930's anti-marijuana propaganda film.
Schachter said it wasn't the planning department's intention to be one-sided. "We were just looking to satisfy the needs of the community," she said.
Some of the few residents who spoke at Tuesday's meeting asked the council to keep dispensaries out of the city's limits all together, suggesting users could travel into Venice, Malibu or a neighboring community to get the drug.
As a part of their review, staffers will look at options for allowing dispensaries in Santa Monica. "We take our direction from the council.. that seems to be the indication," said Schachter.
Here's an excerpt from the report (it can be viewed in full here):
The need for careful regulation is also demonstrated by the experiences of other California cities.
Those that have permitted the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries have experienced an increase in crime; such as burglary, robbery, and assaults; the distribution of tainted marijuana; the sale of illegal drugs in the areas immediately surrounding such medical marijuana dispensaries, collectives and cooperatives; the unavoidable exposure of school-age children and other sensitive residents to medical marijuana; fraud in issuing, obtaining, or using medical marijuana recommendations; and the diversion of marijuana for non-medical and recreational uses.
The California Police Chief's "White Paper" documents that, throughout California, many violent crimes can be traced back to the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries, including armed robberies and murders. Increased noise and pedestrian traffic, including nonresidents in pursuit of marijuana and out of area criminal in search of prey are commonly encountered just outside marijuana dispensaries.
California voters in 1996 approved the "Compassionate Use Act," which legalized the use of medical marijuana. But the state has yet to adopt guidelines for how it should be distributed by dispensaries, and marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law.
Santa Monica's decision to issue a moratorium was made the same day the Los Angeles City Council repealed its own ban on medical marijuana storefronts.
Los Angeles' ordinance would have outlawed the sale of medical marijuana in storefronts but preserved the right of cannabis patients to cultivate their own marijuana in collectives of no more than three individuals.
L.A. City Council Repeals Ban on Medical Marijuana Storefronts
A similar exceptions is made under Santa Monica's moratorium. It applies to patients with identification cards who live and collectively cultivate marijuana on-site for their own personal medical use.
Salvador Valles, who oversees Santa Monica's business licensing unit, speculated L.A.'s ban prompted an uptick in inquires—a total of 15 in the past three months—about establishing dispensaries in Santa Monica.
"None of these inquires resulted in applications being filed," he said.
Currently, no dispensaries operate in Santa Monica with a city license, Valles said.