Jul 27 2009

Santa Cruz to extend medical marijuana moratorium

Posted by J. Craig Canada in city council, Examiner.com, moratoriums, Santa Cruz

During an afternoon session in the middle of summer the Santa Cruz City Council will vote to extend an emergency 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries for 10 months and 15 days.

It is the 23rd item on the agenda for the 3:00 pm session on July 28th.  Not only does the ordinance declare an emergency moratorium on dispensaries, but also on “production houses”.  (To see the Report or The Ordinance, click item 23 from the agenda.)

It’s interesting to note that item 18 on the agenda is to spend $96,000 to encourage small business.

The evening session, which generally begins at 7:00 pm, has been canceled.  There is speculation this is to limit public comment or protest against the action.   The vote on the initial 45-day moratorium, which was passed unanimously, was also scheduled on a weekday afternoon.  The council has also drastically restricted public comment during council meetings, giving only 2 minutes to “members of the general public” and 5 minutes to representatives of organizations.

The “emergency” consists of two submitted applications, two requests for applications, and about 1 alleged telephone inquiry a day regarding opening a medical marijuana dispensary upon the Obama administration announcement that it would not raid medical marijuana facilities that are in compliance with state and local law.

It’s interesting to note that the city isn’t always “reactive”.  In 2005, in anticipation of medical marijuana inevitably becoming legal at the federal level, The City passed Ordinance 2005-28 which added Chapter 6.92 to the Santa Cruz Municipal Code, creating an Office of Compassionate Use to be activated upon federal acceptance of medical marijuana.  Now that the Obama administration has announced it will cease raids and prosecution of medical marijuana facilities in compliance with state law, Santa Cruz is enacting a moratorium on dispensaries.

In 2000 Santa Cruz passed Ordinance 2000-12, which created Chapter 6.90 – Personal Medical Marijuana Use in Title 7 – Health and Sanitation of the Municipal Code.  Medical marijuana associations are recognized by § 6.90.024, which defines criteria for their operation.  § 24.12.1300 further regulates medical marijuana dispensaries or “associations”

The first dispensary wasn’t approved until 2005, nearly ten years after passage of Proposition 215 and 5 years after the city enacted regulations which virtually prohibited them through zoning restrictions.

The 45-day moratorium aborted processing of the two submitted applications, denying the applicants due process.  The 10 month 15 day moratorium will likewise suspend processing of the two submitted applications, and the applicants will probably lose their shirts.

According to the Agenda Report it’s time to consider a cap on the number of dispensaries allowed.  It’s time to add a distance requirement from residential zones, unspecified “siting criteria”, and additional parking requirements.  Undoubtedly, the distance requirement from residential zones will end, once and for all, the hopes of the two current applicants.

In the wake of Oakland’s great victory, the City Council believes it’s time to take the first step towards taxing dispensaries out of existence.  They put it this way:  “Another item being discussed that is not really a land use issue but related to the medical marijuana dispensary use is the option of creating a special fee for said use. The City of Oakland is currently proceeding with this option to its four medical marijuana dispensaries.”

City council member Mike Rotkin told The San Jose Mercury News that taxing money the sick and dying spend for medicine is a “no-brainer”.

“The tax is just an additional benefit,” Rotkin said. It shows support for medical marijuana, he said.

“And anything that brings back more money to the city will be attractive,” he said, “even if it’s a small amount.”

Those with a brain disagree.  A few hours ago The Green Cross issued a press release condemning the Oakland Gang of Four’s push to tax all marijuana.

Last week, voters in Oakland overwhelmingly passed Measure F, which created a new business tax rate for “Cannabis Businesses” of $18 for each $1,000 in gross receipts from business activity, an astronomical increase from the previous “Retail Sales” tax rate. Proponents of this tax say that this is the first step towards legalizing adult use of cannabis. The Green Cross in San Francisco says that this is the first step towards pricing out patients and demeaning the medical movement.

…Punishing patients to gain social acceptance of a rushed unproven experiment involving general adult use is irresponsible and unfair. The medical community has worked hard to fight for the rights of patients and caretakers. Kevin Reed, President of the The Green Cross may have said it best, when he commented that “this frantic, ‘we need money, legalize now’ movement may totally derail what we have been tirelessly working for during the last thirteen years. Proponents of legalization run the risk that people may not like what they see, the legalization-for-all social experiment might fail, and bring the medical cannabis movement down with it.

The Green Cross was recently featured in articles appearing across the country as a symbol of the mainstream acceptance of medical marijuana.  This is not just about $18 on the thousand, it is about a lot more than that.

One thing the media seems to have virtually ignored and deemed unimportant is the difference between Oakland’s tax proposals, which tax all marijuana, and Tom Ammiano’s AB 390, which exempts medical marijuana patients from the tax.

According to the Agenda Report, Santa Cruz also needs to consider::

  • Should the size of production houses be limited
  • Should production houses be required to be attached to the dispensaries or be allowed as stand-alone facilities?
  • Should production houses have the similar siting criteria as dispensaries?
  • What is the parking requirement for a production house?
  • Should additional security measures be required for production houses?
  • Should a production house require an annual inspection by the Building and Fire staff?

The 10 month 15 day moratorium will begin on 7 Aug 09.

For more info:
Joint City Council / Redevelopment Agency Agenda – City of Santa Cruz | 28 Jul 09
Medical marijuana touted as cure for cities budget woes – The San Jose Mercury News | 26 Jul 09
Selling out the medical marijuana movement? – examiner.com | 24 Jul 09
S.C. could extend moratorium on new medical pot dispensaries – The Santa Cruz Sentinel | 22 Jul 09
Medical marijuana moves mainstream – The San Jose Mercury News | 29 Jun 09
Santa Cruz passes 45-day moratorium on marijuana dispensaries – examiner.com | 23 Jun 09
Santa Cruz considers medical marijuana dispensary moratorium – examiner.com | 23 Jun 09
Measure K Oversite Committee Meeting – palmspringsbum | 16 Jun 09

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