YUCCA VALLEY — The Town Council voted four to member Lori Herbel’s one to ban marijuana dispensaries in the town’s boundaries Tuesday.
The ordinance comes up for a second reading in August, where approval would turn Yucca Valley’s existing moratorium into a permanent ban, effective in 30 days.
The health collective that provides medical marijuana, California Alternative Medicinal Solutions in the Monterey Business Center, will be partially protected by the new ban. The ordinance allows the town to consider “amortizing” CAMS, asking it to wind down operations over a period of time.
Dissenting vote a turnaround
Herbel’s vote against the ban was a turn from her earlier stand; she has consistently voted with her fellow council members in favor of moratoriums on marijuana. At an October council meeting, she joined the vote to direct staff to work with the Planning Commission to draft the ban.
When Herbel declared her intention to vote against the ban Tuesday, applause erupted from the crowd.
“This is about compassionate use,” Herbel said. “I want to make sure we keep at least one dispensary in town.”
Councilman Bill Neeb said he supports the ban, with the understanding that it doesn’t automatically close CAMS.
Co-op owner says danger overstated
Every time the topic has come before the Planning Commission or the Town Council, public comment has been overwhelmingly in favor of dispensaries.
Tuesday, D.J. Ross, the executive director of CAMS, took exception to his business being lumped into staff presentations about violent crimes.
“In the two years that CAMS has existed, not one incident, documented or not, reported or not, has ever occurred where a child or a person was in danger, directly or indirectly, as a result of CAMS operations,” Ross said.
“In fact, in the two years that CAMS has existed, the percentage of secondary impacts has actually decreased roughly 10 percent.”
Ross cited the Sheriff’s Department website as his source for the statistic.
Medical-marijuana opponent Lori Green reminded Town Council members they just eliminated one code enforcement officer.
“While a few cities have successfully regulated dispensaries, it requires being extremely proactive. We are left with limited resources to allow us to be proactive enough,” she said.
Green also noted that since the federal Food and Drug Administration has not allowed for marijuana to be used, its safety is in question.
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance along with heroin and PCP.
The American Medical Association’s policy-making House of Delegates voted last year to ask the federal government to rethink that classification so meaningful studies could be done on the merits of medical marijuana without being hampered by a difficult access process.
Is town open to lawsuits?
Councilman Frank Luckino asked attorney Douglas Haubert if enacting the ban would make the town liable in lawsuits.
“I don’t see any liabilities from adopting a land use prohibition,” Haubert replied. “I am not aware of any city in California that has been sued successfully for doing what’s before the council tonight.”
In recent months several cities, including Twentynine Palms, have enacted legislation that limits or bans medical-marijuana dispensaries. Some cited illegal operations, some claimed an increase in crime, while others simply wished to halt unwanted proliferation.
One high-profile case going through the appeals court is Qualified Patients Association versus the city of Anaheim. It’s possible that a ruling here could determine whether a city can use zoning ordinances to prohibit dispensaries operating under state law.
San Bernardino County supervisors voted Tuesday for a one-year extension to the county’s moratorium on medical-marijuana dispensaries and collectives in unincorporated areas.
By Rebecca Unger
Published: Saturday, June 19, 2010 1:52 AM CDT
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