Cities throughout California will be watching Long Beach on Tuesday, as the City Council is set to discuss an ordinance that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure also repeals Long Beach’s year-old permit rules regulating cannabis collectives. Legal advisers say the action is required after an Oct. 6 state Court of Appeal decision that struck down the local law. The city’s permit rules allowed applicants to enter a lottery to operate dispensaries, with winners paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in business fees.
A three-judge panel on the state court, however, ruled in Pack v. Long Beach that the permit process in effect encourages participants to violate federal laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of marijuana. Additionally, the judges’ opinion could subject officials to claims of criminal conspiracy to break the Federal Controlled Substances Act, Long Beach Attorney Robert Shannon said. “The ordinance needs to be repealed, and it needs to be repealed now,” Shannon said.
Under the ordinance to be considered Tuesday, violators of the ban would be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail, or both. Each day a violation occurs would be considered a separate infraction. Not surprisingly, the moves don’t sit well with the local medical cannabis community. The Long Beach Collective Association, a group of dispensaries approved by the city, has offered amendments to the law. “What we’ve done is taken the language in the ordinance, where it might say something is required, we have altered it to say it is restricted,” said Carl Kemp, a spokesman for the association.
Members have also signed a declaration promising to abide by most of the original rules of the ordinance. Claiming “no apparent urgency,” Kemp asked the city to hold off on acting on the Pack decision pending results of its appeal to the California Supreme Court. Shannon estimated the case may be heard in roughly 60 days.
He called the Long Beach Collective Association’s proposal “absolutely unacceptable” since it continues the practice of allowing enterprises that the federal government considers unlawful. “People are looking at the law as they want it to be,” Shannon added. “I don’t have that luxury.”
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