Pubdate: Mon, 26 Dec 2011
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2011 Lee Enterprises
Author: Chantal M. Lovell


The year in which many people thought they'd see the county's first 
medical marijuana dispensary selected and on its way to opening ended 
with no dispensary or drug in sight.

City staff spent the early part of the year reviewing applications 
in-house from six would-be dispensaries vying to be the chosen one. 
The city had estimated it would announce a preferred dispensary 
applicant in January or February, but that decision did not come 
until late summer.

The delay was reportedly caused by the close detail with which staff 
reviewed the applicants, city officials said.

In June, the city held interviews with its top three applicants. On 
Aug. 17, it named Harmony Patients' Center of Napa, Inc. as its 
preliminary preferred applicant, citing its business plan and 
experience as superior to the other applicants.

The public comment period on the preliminary choice ended in 
September and city officials were set to make a final determination 
when a California appellate court issued a decision that uprooted the 
city's plans.

On Oct. 4, an appellate court effectively overturned a medical 
marijuana ordinance in Long Beach, saying it violated federal law, 
which unlike California's, maintains marijuana is illegal. Because 
the Long Beach ordinance was similar to Napa's, the City Council 
enacted a 45-day moratorium on Oct. 18 halting the process of 
choosing a dispensary.

Key among the council's questions were whether Napa would be able to 
heavily regulate dispensaries as planned under its ordinance. In the 
Long Beach case, the court said an ordinance that creates a 
permitting framework to allow medical marijuana collectives violates 
federal law.

During a special meeting on Nov. 30, the council extended the 45-day 
moratorium to October 2012 to give staff, particularly its attorneys, 
more time to sort through the legal implications of the court decision.

Councilmembers restated their desire to bring a medical marijuana 
dispensary to serve the Valley's seriously ill residents, but said 
there is enough uncertainty about marijuana and possible prosecution 
from the federal government to pause.

When the council extended the moratorium, City Attorney Michael 
Barrett said he foresaw three options for Napa's medical marijuana 
ordinance. The city could:

Wait to see what happens with court cases and medical marijuana laws

Revise its ordinance to decriminalize dispensaries in particular zones

Revise its ordinance to ban dispensaries

At this point, the city is in waiting. Staff has said it is are 
working to find a way to rework the ordinance to allow dispensaries 
to operate within city limits while complying with conflicting state 
and federal laws.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom