Pubdate: Sun, 04 Dec 2011 Source: Napa Valley Register (CA) Copyright: 2011 Lee Enterprises Contact: http://www.napavalleyregister.com Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/736 NAPA LOSES ITS VOICE ON FUTURE OF MEDICAL POT The city of Napa has kicked its share of the medical marijuana can down the road another 10 months, smack-dab into the heart of the 2012 campaign season. But don't expect local voters to have much say in its future. In the wake of a federal crackdown on medicinal marijuana, the moratorium on Napa's ordinance won't come back to the City Council again until October 2012. If something is to change between now and then, it has to happen at the national level. Without a catalyst to suddenly intervene in a 15-year-old state law, many believe the federal crackdown on California pot dispensaries two months ago was politically motivated. Some speculate President Obama wanted to eliminate medical marijuana as a campaign issue enough to go against his own repeated 2008 campaign pledges that the federal government wouldn't interfere in state medical marijuana laws. Whatever the motivation, the fate of Napa's dispensary may depend on whether the federal crackdown in October does indeed eliminate the issue from the national campaign, or whether it elevates it. The screeching halt to Napa's initiative - through a 45-day, and now 10-month, moratorium - was never a local decision. With early judicial decisions favoring federal marijuana law, it would be idiotic not to interrupt the ordinance process. Had the City Council moved forward with the ordinance as written, it would be inviting a federal lawsuit photocopied from the government's suit against the city of Long Beach. Napa's desire to tightly control the dispensary process and limit its influence is what made the city legally vulnerable. The option to cede some of that power does exist, but won't be embraced by either city officials or the voting public. Restrictions are what made the process move forward. And eliminating such regulation - after years of public comment in favor of it - is not an idea candidates are likely to embrace. Council members, all of whom could be on the campaign trail, will be happy to wait and watch the issue play out further on the federal stage. And there has been little evidence that local residents will want to press them on it. Thus far, the dispensary initiative hasn't resulted in much raging public debate, at least not in comparison to red-light cameras or one-way streets. And making it a local campaign issue now won't net much progress. Napa can't proceed with its ordinance as written unless something changes at the federal level. And Napa won't revise its ordinance to lessen restrictions for fear of allowing marijuana to become too pervasive locally. Without change at the federal level, Napa's medical marijuana dispensary is dead. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.