Long Beach Weeds Out More Medical Marijuana Sites

Nine more Long Beach medical marijuana sites will shut down under proposed amendments supported Tuesday by the City Council, leaving 27 total locations for dispensing or growing the drug.

The council reached a late-night compromise, voting not to fully support changes to the city’s medical marijuana law that had been pushed by three council members, but still adding some new restrictions for marijuana collectives. Most notably, the council didn’t restrict marijuana cultivation to industrial areas nor limit the number of collectives allowed throughout the city, but it did create buffer zones around parks.

“I think what’s being proposed tonight is overly restrictive,” Councilman Robert Garcia said. “We are talking about patients, and these are people that have been prescribed medicine and they have a right to access that medicine.”

The council voted 7-2 to rewrite the law that it had approved in March, adding to existing rules that include prohibitions against collectives operating near schools, in residential areas or within 1,000 feet of each other, and a requirement that they must grow their marijuana within the city limits.

Supporting a compromise proposed by Garcia, the council added several new rules, which were based off of a more stringent proposal by council members Gary DeLong, Gerrie Schipske and Patrick O’Donnell. Under the new restrictions:

– Collectives must submit audited financial statements and their annual state sales tax report to the city.

– Collectives only be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (this is a change from the original proposal that collectives close at 5 p.m.)

– There will be a 45-day public review period followed by a hearing in front of the council for new marijuana collective applications, rather than just a public hearing.

– No collectives will be allowed within 1,000 feet of parks.

– Security cameras will be required on the outside of collective buildings.

– A one-year moratorium on new collectives will go into effect.

– Collective operators must sign a statement that says they recognize that the council could change the rules for medical marijuana at any time.

Council members Patrick O’Donnell and James Johnson voted against the new restrictions because they wanted a stricter policy. Johnson said he feared that without limiting the number of collectives, certain parts of the city might end up with a proliferation of collectives.

“I just don’t think it’s fair for certain parts of the city to bear the potential burden of potential nuisance activity while others don’t,” Johnson said.

Under the original proposal by O’Donnell, DeLong and Schipske, collectives would have been allowed to grow marijuana only in industrial areas; wouldn’t have been able to operate within 1,000 feet of libraries, child-care centers and parks; and would have been restricted to 18 operations citywide and two per council district.

That proposal also included giving collectives that are forced to close because of the new rules 60 days to resubmit an application for an allowed location, but this wasn’t part of the approved changes.

Tuesday’s action requires the City Attorney’s Office to rewrite the ordinance, but the council will have to vote on it two more times, giving the council two more chances to tweak the law.

Collective operators had already threatened to take legal action if the council changed the ordinance, which took months of work and debate for the council to finalize. That had been one of the concerns of some council members going into the meeting, and presumably the city may face fewer lawsuits than if the originally proposed amendments to the law had been enacted.

Still, one question that concerned Councilwoman Rae Gabelich was how the city will be able to reimburse the collectives for their permit fees, which were $14,700 for a single collective, but that increased to $25,000 for those that had a separate cultivation site. Long Beach officials used that marijuana permit revenue — over $700,000 in all — to help end the last fiscal year with a balanced budget.

“We couldn’t tell you tonight where the money would come from on that,” City Manager Pat West told the council.
Collective operators had mixed feelings about the new rules after Tuesday’s meeting. Some were relieved that their collectives won’t be affected, while others feared that more changes are to come.

“They can just keep doing it and doing it until there’s no one left,” said Judi Farris, who runs Long Beach Natural Solutions. “Some of them (council members) just don’t understand that the patients are really ill.”

– Article from Conta Costa Times.