The city of Long Beach, Ca. has agreed to draft an ordinance that would allow medical marijuana collectives to operate in the city under a new set of regulations.
The City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to draft an ordinance that would allow a small number of dispensaries to open within city limits.
The decision from the council came one day after US District Judge Audrey Collins ruled that Long Beach officials were not required to place a medical marijuana initiative on the city’s ballot in April, even though the initiative had collected the qualifying number of signatures, because the petition’s language had not requested consideration for a general election. She also rejected a request from proponents to force the city into a full count of the signatures.
On Tuesday, it had been anticipated that City Council members would vote on a proposal to draft a medical marijuana initiative to be placed on the city’s April ballot.
Instead, council members agreed to bypass an election and move forward with drafting a new zoning ordinance to regulate collectives, including caps on the number of dispensaries citywide and in each council districts, and restrictions that would confine them to areas zoned for industrial uses.
“Our city needs the same authority as other cities and states to regulate this substance in plain, public view,” said Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, one of the proposal’s three sponsors. “Right now, I think we have an obligation to consider what 30,000 residents believe is a worthwhile ballot issue.”
Long Beach has had a complicated history with medical marijuana collectives. In 2009, the city created an ordinance that established a lottery system for business-owners to receive permits. Thirty-two collectives were selected and licensed under that program, but a hopeful business owner who did not receive a permit challenged the process in court, claiming it was unfair. As a result, a state appeals court threw out the ordinance altogether, claiming that the city could not establish a system that conflicted with federal law.
In order to control the collectives, the city of Long Beach passed an ordinance to ban all dispensaries. They opted to allow no dispensaries rather than have an unregulated system of medical marijuana collectives throughout the city.
“This is fluid,” Parkin said. He and other city officials believe that Long Beach, unlike other cities, is still bound by the appeals court ruling, which limits the officials’ ability to regulate dispensaries. “I can’t give them any guarantee that what they adopt will not be challenged or overturned by a court.”
Parkin also said that by using local zoning laws to regulate dispensaries, the city may stand a better chance of surviving a legal challenge.
The Planning Commission is now working with the city attorney’s office to develop the proposed zoning ordinances.