Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lafayette may extend medical-marijuana dispensary moratorium

Lafayette is considering extending its medical-marijuana moratorium as
it waits for regulation direction from the state.

The City Council plans to discuss dispensaries at its Tuesday
worksession. The council previously approved a six-month moratorium that
expires May 1, but city staff members are recommending extending the
moratorium another three months.

An extension is needed, city officials said, to give the Lafayette more
time to see what's going to happen at the state level before crafting
its own regulations.

"There's some sense to waiting until the state acts so we don't have
something that's contradictory," Mayor Chris Cameron said.

So far, one medical-marijuana bill has been introduced in the state
Legislature, but that bill focuses primarily on doctors prescribing the
drug. A bill creating more oversight for dispensaries is expected to be
introduced this week.

Lafayette staff members said they're looking for a bill that provides
"comprehensive regulation of the medical-marijuana industry," including
clarifying whether caregivers should go through a state licensing and
registration process.

Language in the state statute on medical marijuana -- which specifies
that "caregivers" can provide the drug to a patient, but says nothing
about dispensaries -- has caused confusion among law enforcement
agencies, dispensary owners and patients.

"When the voters passed medical marijuana, the amendment was unclear,"
Cameron said. "I don't think most of us understood the potential
loopholes. I want to see the Legislature close the loopholes and more
clearly define the issue."

However state regulations end up, Cameron said the city likely will
develop its own land use rules for dispensaries. Lafayette has a single
dispensary, 420 High Ways at 201 E. Simpson St., which opened before the
moratorium was approved.

Options the city is considering include banning dispensaries from
residential zones, requiring them to locate a certain distance away from
schools and using a licensing process similar to what's required for
liquor licenses.

"My main concern is making sure that our community is safe," Cameron
said. "Legitimate businesses should be able to operate without too much
trouble. We just need to be clear on those parameters."

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