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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CA: Napa's Pot Ordinance Was A Bust
Title:US CA: Napa's Pot Ordinance Was A Bust
Published On:2011-12-26
Source:Napa Valley Register (CA)
Fetched On:2011-12-27 06:00:33

The year in which many people thought they'd see the county's first
medical marijuana dispensary selected and on its way to opening ended
with no dispensary or drug in sight.

City staff spent the early part of the year reviewing applications
in-house from six would-be dispensaries vying to be the chosen one.
The city had estimated it would announce a preferred dispensary
applicant in January or February, but that decision did not come
until late summer.

The delay was reportedly caused by the close detail with which staff
reviewed the applicants, city officials said.

In June, the city held interviews with its top three applicants. On
Aug. 17, it named Harmony Patients' Center of Napa, Inc. as its
preliminary preferred applicant, citing its business plan and
experience as superior to the other applicants.

The public comment period on the preliminary choice ended in
September and city officials were set to make a final determination
when a California appellate court issued a decision that uprooted the
city's plans.

On Oct. 4, an appellate court effectively overturned a medical
marijuana ordinance in Long Beach, saying it violated federal law,
which unlike California's, maintains marijuana is illegal. Because
the Long Beach ordinance was similar to Napa's, the City Council
enacted a 45-day moratorium on Oct. 18 halting the process of
choosing a dispensary.

Key among the council's questions were whether Napa would be able to
heavily regulate dispensaries as planned under its ordinance. In the
Long Beach case, the court said an ordinance that creates a
permitting framework to allow medical marijuana collectives violates
federal law.

During a special meeting on Nov. 30, the council extended the 45-day
moratorium to October 2012 to give staff, particularly its attorneys,
more time to sort through the legal implications of the court decision.

Councilmembers restated their desire to bring a medical marijuana
dispensary to serve the Valley's seriously ill residents, but said
there is enough uncertainty about marijuana and possible prosecution
from the federal government to pause.

When the council extended the moratorium, City Attorney Michael
Barrett said he foresaw three options for Napa's medical marijuana
ordinance. The city could:

Wait to see what happens with court cases and medical marijuana laws

Revise its ordinance to decriminalize dispensaries in particular zones

Revise its ordinance to ban dispensaries

At this point, the city is in waiting. Staff has said it is are
working to find a way to rework the ordinance to allow dispensaries
to operate within city limits while complying with conflicting state
and federal laws.
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