Pubdate: Wed, 18 Sep 2013
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2013 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: David Downey



Murrieta officials decided Tuesday, Sept. 17, to keep intact an 
eight-year ban on medical marijuana dispensaries everywhere in the 
city, while moving the prohibition to a different section of city law 
that attorneys say can withstand a legal challenge.

The Murrieta City Council's 3-1 vote, with Councilman Harry Ramos 
dissenting, also extends the prohibition to mobile dispensaries that 
make deliveries to Murrieta residents who order marijuana. Councilman 
Randon Lane was absent.

The action follows a history of controversy since passage of a 
statewide initiative in 1996 permitting marijuana to be used for 
medicinal purposes only. And it comes a few months after a California 
Supreme Court ruling that said cities didn't have to provide 
dispensaries within their borders.

Councilman Alan Long said the city had no business making a place for 
dispensaries in Murrieta, given the absence of clear direction from 
federal and state governments on how they should operate and a lack 
of regulation.

"Until that happens with medical marijuana dispensaries, there's a 
lack of accountability," Long said.

Mayor Rick Gibbs added that the presence of dispensaries would 
threaten the community, which he noted consistently ranks among 
California's safest cities.

But Ramos said he believed that marijuana helps ease the pain of 
people who are suffering and added that concerns about abuses could 
be overcome.

"I totally disagree with the Supreme Court," Ramos said after the meeting.

He said he believes municipal zoning is not meant to keep certain 
types of businesses out of a community, but rather to determine the 
appropriate place for them.

Ramos told colleagues he was torn by the matter.

"I have to be honest  this is the one topic I have been most 
uncomfortable with since I've been a councilman," he said.

However, because of the court decision, Robert Mahlowitz, an attorney 
for the city, said Murrieta was on solid legal ground banning 
dispensaries outright.

Mahlowitz was referring to a May decision of the state's highest 
court upholding a city of Riverside ban on dispensaries, saying it 
had the legal authority to keep them out of town through its land use 

Because of the ruling, Murrieta sought to pattern its law after 
Riverside's. It placed the revised ban under the city's development 
code, the place where its land use rules are kept. The earlier 
prohibition -- repealed simultaneously with Tuesday's action -- had 
been under business licenses.

Murrieta police Capt. Dennis Vrooman urged council members to include 
a ban on mobile dispensaries, saying that over the past several 
months there has been a surge in deliveries.

"It's a cash business  a lucrative cash business," Vrooman said.

And he said mobile operators have been robbed.

Councilwoman Kelly Bennett said she doesn't doubt there are medicinal 
benefits, but there are conflicts between state and federal law on 
marijuana use.

"Federal law supersedes state law," Bennett said.
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