Jul 28 2009

Santa Cruz passes 6 month medical marijuana moratorium

Posted by J. Craig Canada in city council, distribution, Examiner.com, law, moratoriums

Sometime around 6 pm today the Santa Cruz City Council passed a 6-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and production houses.

The city currently has 2 dispensaries, WAMM and no licensed grow houses.  In order to open a production house one must first have a dispensary operating in the city.

Lisa Molyneux is proprietor of Greenway, the first dispensary granted a license to operate in 2005.  Knowing the moratorium was in the offing, Lisa had submitted an application to open a production house.  When asked if she had anything she’d like to say she replied, “I’m just here to ask them to exempt my grow houses.”

Katherine Beiers had left by the time the issue came before the council for a doctor’s appointment leaving Don Lane, Lynn Robinson, Ryan Coonerty, Cynthia Matthews, Mike Rotkin, and Tony Madrigal hearing the issue.  The moratorium required six votes from the seven member council.

Mike Rotkin introduced discussion of Lisa Molyneux’s grow house application by stating the existing dispensaries were having trouble keeping up with meeting the demand for medical marijuana in the area due to competition from Southern California, and particularly Los Angeles.  He said this is causing prices to shoot up.

Tony Madrigal also voiced support for exempting Ms. Molyneux’s marijuana production facility from the moratorium.

Among the 5 members of the public who spoke to the issue, 3 were applicants, one was a patient, and one was a colorful character who always refers to themselves as “The King of Marijuana” and generally has something to say on every issue.

Stuart Kriege, who had applied to open Westside Medicinal Cannabis Collective, stressed that aborting the processing of the applications denied the applicants due process.

Cynthia Matthews interrupted the only patient to address the issue, yours truly, as they were discussing the idea of taxing medical marijuana.  They began by reminding the council that when they addressed them at the meeting where the initial 45-day moratorium was approved, they mentioned they had to go to San Francisco to acquire their medicine because it was $150 less per ounce there, for better quality.  They pointed out that patients have to pay for the doctor, a state ID card, and there is no prescription drug plan that pays for their medicine.  In any case medicine should not be taxed and to tax medical marijuana, which Mike Rotkin told the San Jose Mercury News was a “no brainer”, would be tantamount to saying medical marijuana was a joke and that their support of medical marijuana was a lie.

Mayor Matthews condescendingly interrupted with “that is not what this is about”, to which the patient stated, “Yes it is.  It is one of the reasons you’re using as an excuse for the moratorium.  It is in your agenda report.”  Rattled by the rudeness of the interruption, the patient stated the council had made it abundantly clear they weren’t interested in anything they had to say and left the podium, before making their point.

Lisa Molyneux, besides making the case to exempt her application to open a medical marijuana production house also noted several times that she has a 3 pound-per-week compassion program.  How much of this was actually given away and how much of this was a discount on purchase price was not made clear.  Nor how many people received compassion, nor how much, nor how many received what level of discount.  Nor what the criteria are to qualify.

The other applicant to open a dispensary asked what was the threat to the community that these medical dispensaries posed.

It’s interesting to note that the previous item considered by the council was to commit the city to $85,000 in possible direct cost for hosting the Amgen bicycle race next year.  The liability incurred would be $60,000 from the planning department and $25,000 from the general fund.  The net loss to the city from the previous event was $79,700.  This net loss of nearly $80,000 was direct costs, not opportunity costs or secondary costs.

The council evidently liked this idea so much they would have been willing to have a special meeting in August to consider it if the backers could demonstrate at that time they could defray some of the cost to the city.  Since the proponents could not make this commitment, city manager Dick Wilson offered to move $25,000 of the liability from the general fund to the planning department, essentially underwriting the entire venture through the planning department.

It is to be noted that what the backers of the bicycle race stressed repeatedly was how “green” and “healthy” their money-losing event was, and it was this argument that appeared to sway the council and city manager to incur an $85,000 liability in direct costs for an event that had cost the city nearly $80,000 the previous year.

Regarding the moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and production houses, first it was proposed to reduce the moratorium to 7 months and exempt the application for the marijuana production house from the moratorium.  In the end, the moratorium was reduced to 6 months and the applicants were offered a 100% refund for all monies paid to the city, if they so desired.  No applications were exempted from the moratorium, which was passed unanimously by a voice vote.

Cynthia Matthews, evidently not sure exactly what had just been passed, referred to it as “the motion before us.”

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