By J. Shadé Quintanilla
In an effort to protect city rights over the medical marijuana industry, the Pasadena city council unanimously voted to approve the drafting of an ordinance that will ban the cultivation and the delivery of medical cannabis.
In October, Governor Jerry Brown signed a series of laws that will affect California municipalities’ control over the cultivation, delivery and sales of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The signed bills, AB243 and AB266, have created a dual licensing structure that will require cultivators and delivery services of the controversial plant to obtain a local license as well as a state license in order to legally operate. Under both laws, municipalities that allow MMJ businesses within their city limits will eventually lose their right to prohibit and regulate the operation of these businesses to state government. Specifically, AB243 requires cities to have prohibition and regulatory policies in place before March 1, 2016.
On Monday, the Pasadena City Council received and approved of a recommendation by the Public Safety Committee to draft an ordinance to ban the cultivation and delivery of medical cannabis. Councilmember John Kennedy, who is also the chair of the committee, advocated for the prohibition of marijuana in order to maintain the city’s right to regulate the industry.
“If we don’t take an affirmative, positive vote on this matter, we will forever relinquish our right as city to regulate matters related to the medical marijuana,” he said. “This preserves the city’s rights, and it’s the right move whether you are on the side of decriminalization, cultivation, etc. I think this is a matter that the state legislature is allowing us to regulate at a local level, and that’s a plus.”
The majority of councilmembers rallied behind Kennedy’s stance, noting their desire to retain the council’s right to regulating the industry, but Councilmembers Andy Wilson and Tyron Hampton questioned the expediency of the decision. Wilson pointed to the fact that the council has yet to have a thorough discussion on the topic or even a developed stance on the issue of medical marijuana.
“I feel like, inherently, we’re taking a position, which is as far as I’m concerned, hasn’t been vetted by this council,” he said. “We are prohibiting this, which may or may not be the right choice in order to preserve our right.”
Wilson suggested that the council consider a date next year when the council can reexamine the ordinance banning the operation of medical marijuana businesses in the city and reevaluate whether or not they should maintain the ban or adopt new regulatory policies.
A few Pasadena residents came to Monday’s meeting to speak out against the ban. Many asked the city to adopt an ordinance that regulates the industry rather than bans it. Michele Brook, a marijuana law attorney based in Pasadena, commented on how prohibiting the cultivation and the delivery of medical marijuana can create more problems for the city.
“When you prohibit, you take the problem underground where the city has no control over the source of marijuana being provided to sick patients in Pasadena,” she wrote an email to the city council.
Brook, along with other Pasadena residents, expressed a concern about the type of marijuana that could potentially be sold to extremely sick MMJ patients. They claimed that without the city’s regulations, many users could potentially buy cannabis with an alarming amount of pesticides and mold.
Sunny Chan, the owner of a MMJ delivery service called the Good Leaf Collective, urged the city council to reconsider the ban so that patients who benefit from the effects of the natural medicine can have access to it.
“These medical marijuana patients use cannabis for specific reasons to [alleviate] and relieve their ailments, to improve their quality of life, to be able to sleep, to be able to eat, to be able to live pain free and to be able to live a peaceful life,” he said. “Please do not prohibit the delivery service until there is a clear alternative and solution in place.”
Despite the public’s plea to prevent the ban, the city council voted to protect their right to regulate the industry. Within the next 30 days, the city attorney will create an ordinance that will prohibit the cultivation and delivery of medical cannabis in Pasadena. The council has yet to decide on a date for when they will resume the conversation on the future of the industry.