Jackie Coburn survived a double mastectomy and knows what it’s like to be too weak and in too much pain to drive to a dispensary to buy medicinal cannabis.
Her last surgery, due to complications of radiation, was just two months ago. “There’s no one around to be able to deliver to me,” the critical-care patient told the City Council Tuesday. “I can’t drive and I’m basically a recluse.”
Testimony like hers convinced the City Council to delay and possibly reverse an earlier decision to prohibit medical marijuana delivery services and cultivation for retail sale within city limits.
Council members listened to a litany of testimony urging them to reconsider. In response, the council unanimously voted to add a sunset clause to the ordinance, which placed a hold on the local law until a decision was made in Sacramento.
Gov. Jerry Brown made the council’s actions obsolete in less than a day by signing an emergency bill, AB 21, Wednesday, Feb. 3, nullifying the March 1 deadline. The deadline stipulated in Assembly Bill 243 was deemed a mistake after California cities and counties rushed to mostly ban the marijuana retail services.
“Now that we have given local officials the time to take a thoughtful approach to regulating medical marijuana, I hope they will maximize that time by engaging with the public and having thorough discussions,” District 2 Assemblyman Jim Wood, who authored the emergency bill, stated on his website.
Laguna Beach council members felt they needed to pass the ordinance banning commercial delivery services, because if they didn’t, Mayor Steve Dicterow explained, they feared state law would circumvent local authority on regulating the pot businesses, as stated in AB 243.
Passing the ordinance contingent upon the governor repealing the March 1 deadline is preferable, Dicterow said during the meeting, “because we all know he’s going to.”
Council members concurred that adding a sunset clause would give them time to reconsider allowing delivery services in the city. The council directed city staff to provide suggestions on regulating delivery and cultivation businesses. No future council meeting date was set.
The sunset clause was suggested by resident Chris Prelitz, who informed the council that Alameda County had adopted a similar action.
Dicterow reiterated twice to the speakers listing the benefits of medicinal cannabis that the city was not outlawing its use. “There is nothing we are doing that prohibits your possessing, growing or using marijuana. Period,” he said. “Nothing in this ordinance.”
Medical cannabis delivery is now legal in the city by a caregiver or a not-for-profit collective to authorized patients, Police Chief Laura Farinella said. Patients and caregivers can possess eight ounces of the weed and own six mature and 12 young plants, according to state law. “We want people to have access to medicinal marijuana,” said Farinella. “We want everybody to have access to what they need.”
Another resident, Christopher Boucher, said he’s been involved in the cannabis oil industry and research for 10 years and warned about the dangers of legal drugs. “I understand about access with children and the youth with cannabis,” he said. “How many people here have pain pills or opiates in your medicine cabinets? How easy is that to access versus cannabis?”
Stacy Dumas, who’s lived in Laguna Beach for five years, urged the council to either offer dispensaries or delivery services. “You have to be able to provide the medicine to the patients one way or the other in this town,” she said, “because they cannot drive because they are sick.” Cannabis dispensaries were banned in the city in 2009, according to the city clerk’s office.
City Manager John Pietig recommended that the council adopt the ordinance with or without the sunset clause and then direct city staff to develop delivery options. With future debate focused only on delivery, the public may not feel the necessity of repeating emotional testimony, he said.
Council member Kelly Boyd said a friend, who’s had cancer twice, confided to him that he’s using medicinal marijuana. And he has it delivered.
“He’s so concerned he could get busted,” said Boyd, who is also surviving cancer. “I said to him, ‘You’re 72 years old and somebody’s going to pull up to your house and they’re going to bust you when you’ve got cancer?’ I hope not,’” said Boyd, who advised his friend to stick with the program. “’If they bust ya, I’ll come get ya out. I’ll put up your bail,’” he said.
Providing a delivery service with strict qualifications was suggested by council member Toni Iseman. “Someone in the room called the deliveries ‘dubber,’ which I think is very clever,” she said, referencing a combination of the word doobie, slang for pot, and Uber, the ride-sharing service. Controlling delivery services will create safety for customers and impose qualifications on the providers, she said. “I would like to see that,” she said.
Last month, the Police Chief Farinella voiced her opposition to marijuana delivery services, which she said are likely to carry substantial quantities of pot and could become enticing targets for thieves. “I’m fearful of the dispensary now at someone’s doorstep,” she said. Farinella did not raise similar objections this past Tuesday.