Pubdate: Tue, 21 Aug 2012
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Lee Enterprises
Author: Chantal Lovell


The city of Napa's moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries will
continue through 2013, the maximum time allowed by state law.

The City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday afternoon to extend the existing
moratorium through Oct. 17, 2013 in hopes that the California Supreme
Court will decide to what degree cities can regulate dispensaries, if
at all, by then. Councilman Jim Krider was not present.

"The hope of city staff is that the several cases related to the
regulation by municipalities of medical marijuana dispensaries that
are currently under review by the California Supreme Court will be
decided sometime between now and October 2013," City Attorney Michael
Barrett said.

This is the third time since October that the council has enacted or
extended a moratorium to halt all activities related to the city's
medical marijuana dispensary ordinance while it awaits direction from
the court.

"I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will distinguish between the good
legislation, the type that Napa has adopted, as opposed to more
suspect, throw-of-the-dice type of ordinances," said David Ramos, a
representative of Harmony Patients' Center of Napa, Inc.

The city had tentatively chosen Harmony to operate the city's first
medical marijuana dispensary, with a scheduled 2011 opening, before
the legal situation for municipalities became confusing.

"We hope that the Napa ordinance will survive the review of these
other jurisdictions' regulatory schemes and we will be able to proceed
once they make that decision," Ramos said.

Ramos said he supported the extension, agreeing it may allow the city
more time to receive clarification on discrepancies between state and
federal laws.

The city's ordinance, approved in July 2010, would allow up to two,
highly regulated dispensaries to open within city limits. Between
October 2010 and October 2011, the city reviewed applications. Harmony
Patients' Center of Napa, Inc. was announced in August 2011 as the
city's preliminary preferred choice. Before the city made its final
determination, a state appellate court issued a ruling that caused the
city to hold off.

On Oct. 4, a state appellate court overturned a Long Beach ordinance
that had allowed a limited number of collectives, as Napa's ordinance
would have. The court said the ordinance conflicted with federal law
that prohibits marijuana use, even though California law allows
marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The city first implemented a moratorium in October, 2011, then acted
in November to extend that moratorium through October of this year.

The Long Beach case was appealed to the California Supreme Court,
where it remains now. It is unclear when the court could issue its
decision on the case, but the city anticipates a ruling will be made
in roughly six to nine months.

Councilman Peter Mott said he believes the city's ordinance is "a
valid and worthwhile one" that he would like to see

"I remain convinced that we, our staff and the council did a very good
job in crafting what I still think is ... certainly a progressive
ordinance in the state," Mott said.

Councilman Mark van Gorder agreed, saying he believes the council
listened to public needs and desires when it unanimously approved its
medical marijuana dispensary ordinance.

"It's unfortunate that we have this issue with the federal government
continuing to crackdown on medicine that a lot of people need," van
Gorder said. "It's the city of Napa versus the federal government and
it doesn't look like we are going to win."

State law prohibits the city from enacting a moratorium beyond two
years, so staff plans to return to the City Council in February or
March to provide further direction.
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