Friday, September 18, 2009

Laguna Beach Bans Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Council bans pot clinics

School principals join in warning of dangers to youth if marijuana were
available locally.

By Barbara Diamond

Updated: Thursday, September 17, 2009 6:32 PM PDT

Don Austin gave the City Council 1,042 reasons for his opposition to
legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries in town — the students at
Laguna Beach High School where he is the principal.

Austin was among the school district officials and parents who persuaded
the council Tuesday to vote unanimously in favor of two ordinance
amendments that combine to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries or
collectives within the city's borders. The Planning Commission
recommended the prohibition.

"I am very conflicted about this," Councilwoman Verna Rollinger
said. "When I first heard about [the dispensaries] I thought, of
course we will have them in town."

Rollinger recently experienced end-of-life issues with two family
members and questioned whether their last days would have been easier
with marijuana rather than the massive doses of morphine that failed to
ease the pain.

Marijuana has long been touted for easing the effects of cancer
treatments, but the difficulty in preventing the abuse of the marijuana
providers by young people or pushers outweighed Rollinger's
compassion for the ill.

Jim Hursh, founder of a nonprofit, 21-member collective looking for a
location, cited his wife's debilitating migraines eased by marijuana
as an example of the benefits of the dispensaries.

"We have three daughters, and we understand the reasons for the
concern of the community," Hursh said. "However, people like my
wife and many others with various ailments desperately need a venue that
is safe, secure and regulated to obtain the medication so that she can
continue to be a productive member of society."

Mayor Kelly Boyd reported reading an ad in a local paper offering free
delivery of medical marijuana.

"I don't see any reason to have dispensaries in Laguna, now or
in the future," Boyd said.

Support for the dispensaries was also voiced by Scott Monte, president
of Evergreen Health Alliance, who wanted to open his first dispensary in
Laguna, and Sheridan Linehan, who told planning commissioners in May
that he would like to open two cooperatives in Laguna. Both men
supported the sale or sharing of "edibles" seasoned with
marijuana if the council had approved the dispensaries.

"My grandfather got cancer, and we helped him to get medical
marijuana," Sheridan said. "It was tremendously helpful in the
last months of his life. He had never used marijuana and he didn't
want to smoke. We got him lollipops and other edibles."

Edibles include the suckers, cookies and pizza, all inviting to
children, which concerned planning commissioners

"Commissioner [Anne] Johnson was not in favor of edibles because
people can cook using their own recipes," staff Planning Manager Ann
Larson said.

The dispensaries were officially opposed by the Laguna Beach Unified
School District and individual members of the administration and the

Thurston Middle School Principal Joanne Culverhouse said children look
to adults as role models and dispensaries send mixed messages to young
people coping with the complications of maturing.

While parents might assume that the age group at Thurston is too young
to be involved in the use or sale of marijuana, they would be wrong,
Culverhouse said.

"There was a 10-year-old who brought marijuana to school and sold
it," Culverhouse said. "I have 676 students and as an
administrator, I am strongly opposed to dispensaries. "

Austin has to deal with students who are old enough to be eligible for
services offered by the dispensaries.

"During this school year, we will have 216 18-year-old
students," Austin said. "This equates to over 20 percent of the
population of our school. Each of the 216 students would be eligible for
a physician's recommendation for medical marijuana.

"Drugs from these facilities have undeniably been illegally
distributed on our campus when a previous Laguna Beach collective was in

Scott Monte said newcomers to the field of dispensing medical marijuana
really want to do the right thing and serve people.

"We have talked to residents who don't like going to Dana
Point's illegal [establishments] ," Monte said.

There are no legal dispensaries in Dana Point. Lake Forest, which does
not have an ordinance banning the dispensaries, has initiated action
against operators in its city limits, according to Planning Commissioner
Norm Grossman.

Laguna Woods is the only South County community that allows the
establishment of dispensaries.

"However, none were in operation because no one would rent to
them," Grossman said.

The right to use medical marijuana has been legal in California since
Proposition 215 was passed in 1996 and later refined in the Medical
Marijuana Program to include a statewide identification card system for
qualified patients.

Terms of the program allow caregivers and one to three of their
qualified patients to collectively or cooperatively cultivate marijuana
for medical purposes. The city's prohibition of dispensaries does
not infringe on that right, Deputy City Atty. Robert Pittman said.

A staff report advised commission and council that dispensaries are not
mentioned in the program and nothing in Proposition 215 or the program
authorizes collectives, cooperatives or individuals to profit from the
sale or distribution of marijuana or by-products.

The Planning Commission recommendation, given preliminary approval
Tuesday by the council, prohibits the dispensaries or collectives in any
zone in Laguna Beach and all zones are to be updated to reflect the

Adoption of the amendments requires a second reading. The land use
amendment also requires a resolution for a Local Coastal Program
amendment, which will be included in the second reading.

An extension of the moratorium on applications to establish dispensaries
passed unanimously on the recommendation of staff, until Oct. 2, 2010,
or until the effective date of the ordinance adopting the land use
regulations on establishing medical marijuana dispensaries.

The amendments will become effective Nov. 6, if the ordinance is adopted
at the second reading scheduled for the Oct. 6 council meeting.

http://coastlinepil 2009/09/17/ top_stories/ cpt-medicalmj0\

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