Santa Monica Says No Permits for Pot Shops

City Council approves 45-day moratorium. City staffers call dispensaries a "risk to the public peace, health and safety."

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.

oboogie October 04, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Thanks for Councilman Kevin McKeown for speaking up on behalf of the community of Santa Monica. California voters in 1996 APPROVED the "Compassionate Use Act," which legalized the use of medical marijuana. It is my opinion that the Santa Monica City Council should honor and respect the people's vote. What's next? Will the City Council also issue a moratorium on the approval of any business licenses or permits for pharmacies, liquor stores and banks, and call those operations a "risk to the public peace, health and safety"? An arguement could just as easily be made that these establishments perpetuate many violent crimes and can be blamed for the pursuit of drugs. liquor and money. The council could state it's collective fears that their existance creates heighteded risk of armed robberies and murders. Increased noise and pedestrian traffic. That would make as much sense as this action against medical marijuana dispensaries. The city of Los Angeles ultimately repealed their unethical ban on these businesses. Santa Monica should do the right thing and follow suit immediately! If these councilpersons refuse to support the things we "the people" vote to approve, we should exercise our right to vote in representitves who will!
420 College October 04, 2012 at 11:30 PM
they experienced an increase in crime; such as burglary, robbery, and assaults not because of allowing pot shops, but because they are releasing criminals from county jails all over the state. also, they are seeing an increase because people don't have jobs. every industry is upside down, what are people supposed to do??? take your shit!!!!!!! http://californiamraijuanacollege.com
Dan Charney October 05, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Thank you Kevin McKeown, please run for mayor and stop the hypocrisy this city government has become in the development area- no more malls, expanded hotels, huge business parks and pretentious trendy condos- let's have some herbals stores and salons- the cigar place exists and that stuff is lethal and stinks besides- ::))) you got my vote- love to work on your campaign too-


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