Medical marijuana dispensaries may get more time in Long Beach

LONG BEACH — Medical marijuana collectives may get another reprieve from the city’s ban. On Tuesday, almost one month before an operating exemption for 18 dispensaries expires, the City Council will consider a proposal sponsored by Councilwoman Rae Gabelich asking for the creation of an ordinance to extend the exemption. The collectives would be allowed to continue to operate until the California Supreme Court rules on a case that could resolve the conflict between state law, which allows limited medical marijuana use, and a federal statute that prohibits the drug. The measure, which also would direct law enforcement to shut down and prosecute non-exempt operators, is co-sponsored by council members Suja Lowenthal and Steve Neal.

The council banned all collectives in February after an appeals court ruled in Pack v. Long Beach that the city’s dispensary licensing process, enacted in 2010, forced participants to violate federal law. However, the council granted a six-month exemption to collectives that had complied with the permitting law. That protection for 18 dispensaries ends Aug. 12. Lowenthal said she supported extending the reprieve with the intent that it continues until the high court considers the Pack case. “I would certainly like to hear from the courts about the final status of our local ordinance,” Lowenthal said. Proponents have argued that a total ban in Long Beach would harm patients who benefit from using medical marijuana and force them to seek the drug on the streets. City Attorney Robert Shannon and law enforcement officials have repeatedly opposed allowing any medical marijuana collectives to exist in Long Beach following the Pack decision. They say allowing some dispensaries to operate but not others puts attorneys on shaky legal ground when attempting to close and prosecute those violating the ban. Lowenthal said that as a public policymaker, she has to “navigate the crevasses of public policy.” “It’s not clean, it’s not black and white,” she said. “I know from a law-enforcement standpoint, things may be easier than black and white, but it’s not impossible (to prosecute ban offenders).” Gabelich’s last meeting as a council member is July 10. She is termed out of office.

via : Contra Costa Times

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