In a bold move, the city council unanimously vowed to “work hard” on getting residents to defeat a medical marijuana dispensary measure on November’s ballot.
In a special meeting on what was colloquially termed “Marijuana Monday,” the council voted to take no action on a proposed city-sponsored measure and bring back the marijuana dispensary ban. The city banned marijuana dispensaries in 2009.
The measure would have competed with a petition-driven measure that is asking residents if they want two medical marijuana dispensaries in town, one per every 10,000 residents.
Under the direction of Police Chief Laura Farinella, the city-sponsored measure was comprised and revised in a concerted attempt to counter and improve upon the petition-driven measure with stricter location and operational regulations.
The council was forced to take some action on the issue when the petition-driven measure qualified for the ballot through the Orange County Registrar of Voters’ office.
“It makes us the only city in the southern half of the county with a legal dispensary.” said council member Rob Zur Schmiede, who read from a long list of negatives. “We care about each other here…I’m not going to do something with a gun to my head and that’s exactly what this is.”
The council did not disparage the contested benefits or detriments of the use of prescribed cannabis. They stated that Laguna Beach was not the right town for a medical marijuana dispensary due to its restrictive topography, increasing number of tourists and subsequent traffic and parking issues, and, finally, the building momentum among residents unhappy with the proposition.
“If we have a pot dispensary in this town, social media will be the key to the ruin of Laguna Beach,” said Amy Kramer, Top of the World resident and mother of three children. “We can’t have a skate park for the kids but we can have a medical marijuana dispensary in our town?”
Everyone knows that a medical dispensary is not where it ends, she said.
The council asked residents to join them in doing everything possible to defeat the pot dispensary measure.
“The changes these people are trying to bring to our community are bringing us down and not up,” said council member Kelly Boyd.
Council members asked other city groups and agencies, such as the Laguna Beach Unified School District board of directors, to step up. Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman pointed out that proponents of the medical marijuana dispensary measure will probably strongly advertise their position to the voters.
“I don’t think the voters and the smart people of Laguna wants this here,” said John Seidensticker, a new Laguna Beach resident. “I think we can beat this easily. Traffic’s already a nightmare. Beyond traffic, there’s plenty of ways to get this.” Delivery, he said, is an option.
“Dispensaries are too frequently misused despite the good intention they may originally have had,” said Guisou Mahmoud, an emergency room physician at Mission Hospital, Laguna Beach. She said her patients who are heroin, meth or cocaine addicts say marijuana and alcohol led to their addictions. “There will be a lot more tragedy and loss of life if we have dispensary.” she said.
Newport Beach, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Aliso Viejo and Costa Mesa have all banned dispensaries, according to Farinella’s report Monday. There are 69 storefront dispensaries in Orange County, according to a weedmaps.com listing on the internet.
Mayor Steve Dicterow, an attorney and district representative for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, recused himself for several professional reasons and “inherent bias.” Rohrabacher, a Republican, has openly stated he has used topical medical marijuana for arthritis pain. He meets with medical marijuana consultants regularly, the mayor said. Dicterow also said he was asked to be a consultant for a pro-voter-initiative campaign, which he declined.