Laguna Beach's Ban on Medical Marijuana is Almost Over

Laguna Beach is likely to open its borders to medical marijuana
Laguna Beach is likely to open its borders to medical marijuana
Flickr User Jonathan Alcorn

The battle over whose medical marijuana initiative will make it on the November ballot for Laguna Beach is almost over. As of last Tuesday, the Laguna Beach City Council decided that putting two initiatives repealing the ban of medical marijuana on the ballot is overkill, and it’d be best to combine both proposals into one.

The original initiative, known as the "citizen initiative," was submitted three months ago by a couple of Laguna Beach residents and earned over two thousand signatures to qualify for the ballot. It would allow only two dispensaries within Laguna Beach, thus making them the only legal storefronts in all of south Orange County, with Santa Ana's city-licensed dispensaries up to 45 minutes to an hour away depending on traffic conditions. The law would allow them to operate from 8am to 10pm daily but prohibit them from operating within a thousand feet of private or public schools or residential areas, a distinct challenge given Laguna’s compact geographical landscape.

The competing initiative, written by Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella would allow only one dispensary to operate in Laguna Beach from 9am to 6pm. The dispensary would be prohibited from operating adjacent to residential neighborhoods, within 250 feet of beach access or 1,000 feet of schools, day-care centers, parks and playgrounds.

Deborah Tharp, a marijuana activist who helped oversee the citizens initiative claims that the city's initiative should be scrapped because it’s illegal for the police to write laws. “The founding fathers of the United States of America created the separation of powers for a reason,” says Tharp. “It’s opening a door to straight up tyranny because it shows that the police do not know the laws.”

Chief Farinella declined an interview request, but at the council meeting on Tuesday, she stated that the most important aspect of creating a medical marijuana initiative is making sure that safe access and the consideration of public safety are thoroughly addressed. However, an agreement was reached last Tuesday to come up with a compromise between both initiatives. A special meeting will be held on August 8th to discuss the final initiative that will be presented on the November ballot.

“This was an epic win for us,” says Tharp. "We'll be working all week to ensure we get this right for the meeting next Monday."

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