Pubdate: Thu, 05 Sep 2013
Source: Napa Valley Register (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Lee Enterprises
Author: Chantal M. Lovell


City Needs Time to Review New Federal Policy

The Napa Planning Commission was scheduled to begin the process of 
repealing the city's medical marijuana ordinance at its Thursday 
night meeting, but the meeting has been canceled.

The city announced the cancellation Thursday morning, saying it 
needed more time to consider the implications of a federal memorandum 
regarding marijuana enforcement that was issued last week by the U.S. 
Justice Department.

On August 29, two days after the City Council voted to effectively 
ban medical marijuana in the city in an attempt to comply with 
federal law, the U.S. deputy attorney general issued a memorandum 
regarding how it plans to deal with jurisdictions that allow 
marijuana dispensaries.

According to the memorandum, the federal government's priority will 
be to ensure that jurisdictions that allow dispensaries adhere to a 
set of standards. Local ordinances should prevent the distribution of 
the drug to minors, prevent revenue from marijuana sales from going 
to criminal enterprises, prevent marijuana distributions from being a 
cover for other illegal drug distribution or trafficking and prevent 
violence and the use of firearms from being involved in marijuana distribution.

While marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal 
government, the memorandum seemed to suggest it is now acceptable for 
jurisdictions to regulate dispensaries in their regions. Previously, 
it was thought actively allowing and regulating a dispensary would 
put the city and its leaders at risk of federal prosecution.

The memorandum directs federal prosecutors to review local marijuana 
laws on a case-by-case basis and consider whether they offer a 
"strong and effective state regulatory system."

However, even jurisdictions that have such regulations may be subject 
to legal action and that the memorandum does not create any rights or 
enforceable law.

The city of Napa created an ordinance in 2010 that would have allowed 
one strictly regulated dispensary to open in the city to provide 
marijuana to anyone with a state-sanctioned medical marijuana card.

The ordinance seemingly would comply with the new federal standards, 
though it would still violate federal law that prohibits marijuana 
use for any purpose.

Last year, as the city was about to allow a dispensary to open, a 
court ruling was issued against the city of Long Beach regarding its 
ordinance, which was similar to Napa's. At the same time, the federal 
government took a stronger stance against dispensaries and 
jurisdictions that allow them.

Last week, the council opted to repeal its ordinance that would have 
allowed a dispensary. Repeal of the ordinance would effectively ban 
dispensaries in the city because current zoning does not permit such activity.

On Thursday, the Planning Commission was scheduled to take action to 
repeal the ordinance, a decision that would be finalized by the 
council at a later date.

In an email to the commission, Planning Manager Ken MacNab said the 
meeting was canceled because the City Council needed time to consider 
the most recent position of the Justice Department.

The next City Council meeting is Tuesday, but the agenda outlining 
what will be discussed has not yet been published.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom