Pubdate: Fri, 26 Nov 2010
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2010 Marin Independent Journal


DEPENDING ON how you look at it, the Corte Madera Town Council has
either taken its sweet time or hurried its approval of an emergency
moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Several Marin towns approved such moratoriums or bans years ago after
California voters approved the 1996 Compassionate Use Act.

Last week, Corte Madera joined them. The council emerged from a
closed-door meeting with its town attorney and passed an urgency
ordinance that creates a 45-day ban on new medical pot shops.

The Fairfax Town Council recently voted for a similar ban, but unlike
Corte Madera, Fairfax has for years authorized a medical marijuana
dispensary and its moratorium is in response to plans to establish two
more medical pot shops.

Corte Madera has been wrestling with the same issue and has challenged
dispensaries that opened without town approval. One of the stores has
moved out and another is the target of a town lawsuit.

Mayor Carla Condon said the moratorium underscores that "at the
present time" a medical marijuana dispensary is not a permitted use in
town. Town attorney Jeff Walter says the ban makes the zoning
prohibition doubly clear.

The ban did more than clarify the issue.

The ban was put on the books without real public review and

At the Nov. 8 council meeting, the council came out of a closed-door
meeting and voted, unanimously, before an audience that essentially
consisted of two Redwood High School students who were working on a
class assignment and the Twin Cities police chief.

In a town where two-thirds of voters endorsed Proposition 215 in 1996
and where, earlier this month, 61.2 percent supported Proposition 19,
the marijuana legalization measure, there appears to be enough support
for a real discussion of medical marijuana -- before a moratorium was
hastily imposed.

At the very least, the council should allow time for more public
debate and feedback if it holds hearings in January to make the
temporary ban permanent.

Planning moratoriums often are used to buy time while officials work
on the rules, regulations and restrictions they will use to guide the
city's consideration of complex land-use matters.

In Fairfax, the Town Council asked staffers to review planning
criteria for medicinal marijuana dispensaries. That makes sense.

Corte Madera's moratorium says that a temporary ban is needed to
provide the town with the time it needs to study the planning issues
and determine local rules needed to review any new requests for
permits because town officials are expecting more medical pot shops to
take root. The ordinance called them "a current and immediate threat."

The ordinance also says that in some jurisdictions, medical marijuana
dispensaries have led to "reported increases" in illegal drug
activities, drug sales, robbery and loitering.

Whatever the Town Council's motivation, it is not clear why it was in
such a hurry and could not have taken another week to do a better job
of including the public in its process. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake