Loving, Loathing, Ignoring Medical Pot Clinics

Several Orange County cities outright ban 'em, the County of Orange looks the other way at 'em and our neighbors in Long Beach hold lotteries to allow 'em.

'em are medical marijuana dispensaries, and as California marches toward possible legalization of the devil's weed this November, existing clinics are finding their right to exist varies from address to address.

Illustration by Jay Brockman

As reported here (endlessly), Orange County dispensary owners and patients are embroiled in seemingly endless battles with local cops, code enforcement and city councils that prohibit clinics.

In one of those towns seeking to close dispensaries, Dana Point, the debate has infiltrated the current City Council race.

In another, Costa Mesa, the OCDA–which in this case stands not for Orange County District Attorney but the Orange County Directors Alliance–has recruited council candidates to try to change the city's strict stance against clinics.

Talk about a grass-roots movement!

Meanwhile, buzzkillers told the Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday that an emergency ban on dispensaries in unincorporated areas is needed, especially following citizen complaints from Sunset Beach and Midway City.

Dispensaries in Orange County cities are subject to local laws, but those
in unincorporated areas exist in sort of a gray area.
The county does not issue general business licenses but land use permits are doled out to applying merchants. Meanwhile, collectives are not among the businsses, like escort services and public baths, that must secure county Sheriff's Department licenses to operate legally.

Individual supervisors expressed frustration Tuesday at the lack of rules and regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries and some advocated the moratorium so laws could be whipped up before California voters potentially legalize pot on Nov. 2.

However, the ban, which required a 4/5ths vote, failed when supervisors Shawn Nelson and John Moorlach voted no. They argued without existing laws in place to strengthen, an emergency warranting an immediate ban is not justified. Instead, county staff was directed to come up with a medical marijuana ordinance by Nov. 9, after voters may have decided non-medical use of ganja is just fine.

While the fate of OC dispensers seems to depend on where they are located, in Long Beach they give away the right operate in something akin to the state's Lucky Lotto show. On Tuesday, 32 collectives won the right to advance to the next stage of the permitting process under the city's new medical marijuana laws.

Unfortunately, 43 had applied. Eleven were eliminated because the new law also stipulates collectives cannot be within 1,000 feet of one another.

Meanwhile, five winning collectives also won the right to operate separate cultivation sites.

Taso Nikolaou, who operates Cannabis Evaluation Center on Seventh Street, went to church, lit a candle and asked God for help before the lottery was held. His prayers were answered when his number was picked.

“I'm ecstatic right now,” Nikolaou told the Long Beach Press-Telegram.


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