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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CA: Cities, Including Chico, Challenged By 'Evolving'
Title:US CA: Cities, Including Chico, Challenged By 'Evolving'
Published On:2011-10-11
Source:Chico Enterprise-Record (CA)
Fetched On:2011-10-12 06:01:12

CHICO -- The drought of medical marijuana dispensaries in Chico could
drag on after a California appeals court ruled against Long Beach's ordinance.

The judges said Oct. 4 cities can do no more than outline where and
how collectives and cooperatives operate, decriminalizing it, but
they cannot issue permits because that would violate federal law,
Chico city attorney Lori Barker said Monday.

"Until the California Supreme Court takes this case or another case
like it, this is going to be very confusing on what cities can do,"
Barker said.

The Chico City Council voted 5-1 Sept. 6 to repeal its ordinance that
would have permitted two dispensaries of 10,000 square feet each in
the city limits. Councilman Scott Gruendl dissented and Councilwoman
Mary Flynn was absent.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner told city administration the ordinance
would expose city employees and council members to prosecution for
facilitating dispensaries in violation of federal drug laws.

Council members directed staff to bring them a new ordinance with a
permitting process.

"The Long Beach case seems to preclude that," Barker said.

Barker plans to wait to see if Long Beach appeals the ruling, she
said. Then she will consult with the council and draft an ordinance.

"I think that's the best we can do - move forward knowing it might
change," she said.

She thinks it might be difficult to write an ordinance restricting
dispensaries without going too far to permit them, she said.

In another medical marijuana ruling, a Riverside County trial court
judge said Oct. 3 Rancho Mirage's ban on dispensaries violates
California's laws.

Barker thinks the inconsistencies in rulings show the need for the
state Supreme Court to address the issue, she said.

Gruendl thinks the city has a lot of work to do, but the court action
will help, he said.

"It's good that we're finally going down this road to define what's
going to be allowed," Gruendl said.

Councilman Mark Sorensen, who voted to disallow dispensaries in the
city, thinks there might be ways to work around the appellate court
decision, but that's still unclear.

"Of course, I don't think there's any way to work around the
Department of Justice," Sorensen said of the department that includes
the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Regarding the U.S. attorneys in California targeting landlords of
dispensaries and grows, Barker said the city's repealed ordinance
requires property owners to give consent. Barker thinks that
stipulation would likely remain in the city ordinance, unless the
council directed otherwise.

She does not know if any dispensary landlords in Butte County
received a letter from the U.S. Attorney's Office, she said.

In reaction to residential growers not following the 50-square-foot
limitation on the grow size, Barker said she will likely ask the
council to clarify the restrictions. Because it's the end of the
growing season, Barker said she's not rushed on the issue and might
ask the council to address it when they discuss dispensaries.

Barker said the law keeps "evolving" regarding medical marijuana,
creating challenges.

"We just don't yet know what the final picture is going to be," she said.
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