Long Beach City Council To Vote on Pot Ban Next Tuesday

UPDATE, Jan. 18, 10:30 AM: The Long Beach City Council has yet again delayed its vote on whether to ban medical marijuana, this time because councilmember Suja Lowenthal was absent from the city council chambers. Ironically, the council had been expected to vote on such a ban last month, but Lowenthal suggested a delay because councilmember Robert Garcia was absent. The vote is now scheduled to take place on Feb. 14, which will likely allow for the California Supreme Court to weigh in on a court ruling that invalidated much of the city's current medical marijuana ordinance, more details of which you can read after the jump.

ORIGINAL POST, Jan. 12, 3:30 PM: Rather than wait for a controversial court case to provide clarity on whether the city's medical marijuana ordinance is illegal--a ruling that won't come until Feb. 8--the Long Beach city council is expected to vote on whether to ban pot dispensaries at its Jan. 17 meeting. A previous vote to ban pot last month, which failed by one vote, had been suggested by the city attorney's office as a measure to protect the council from being arrested by federal drug agents. Although it's possible that the council may choose to delay their vote again, the fact that it has been scheduled for the upcoming agenda suggests otherwise.

After enacting a 2010 ordinance allowing cannabis collectives to cultivate and distribute marijuana in return for paying tens of thousands of dollars in various permitting fees, Long Beach was sued by patients whose non-permitted clubs were raided by police. This led to a Nov. 2011 court decision invalidating parts of the city's ordinance, which in turn led city attorney Robert Shannon to urge the council to ban pot clubs at its Dec. 13 meeting, arguing that to do otherwise would allow council members to be arrested and hauled off to jail.

However, council member Robert Garcia was absent that night, so his colleague Suja Lowenthal urged the council to reconvene when Garcia, who has been an outspoken advocate of medical marijuana, could participate. The Long Beach Collective Association (LBCA), a coalition of medical marijuana dispensaries that have received city permits, has been lobbying to convince the council to wait until after Feb. 8, when the California Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on the city's pot ordinance.

"We have done a lot to try to make the ordinance work well for everyone and there is a certain level of frustration on behalf of those collectives that comply with the rules," said Carl Kemp, an LBCA spokesman. "To move forward with a ban is to ignore all the hard work the city staff and collectives have done with this permitting process . . . [and] to force people who have a legitimate need to go back into the dark alley to get their medicine."


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