Mountain View Voice

Opinion - February 19, 2010

Ideology trumps leadership

City Council members John Inks and Tom Means are strong believers in keeping government regulations to a minimum. Often that's a good thing — but last week it wasn't, as council members struggled to establish zoning rules for an expected crush of applicants seeking to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Mountain View.

Council members, most of them seemingly in favor of allowing regulated dispensaries, were only asking for a temporary ban to buy them some extra time to work out the kinks. But in the name of their ideals, Means and Inks managed to hogtie the proceedings.

"I worry it will become another big city regulation on stuff," Means said at the meeting.

That's a little ironic, as both members say they believe the city should not stand in the way of anyone who wants to open a medical marijuana club here. Last week it was them standing in the way.

The moratorium would have gone into effect immediately and established a 45-day waiting period for medicinal marijuana dispensary applicants, giving city officials time to craft a new ordinance. This reasonable proposal, which needed six of the seven council votes to pass, failed in a 5-2 vote.

Despite that outcome, the entire council appears to favor approving marijuana dispensaries. Mayor Ronit Bryant, herself a cancer survivor, said her doctor gave her Marinol, which is artificial marijuana. "Had it not worked I would have wanted the real thing if that would have helped me," she said.

Council member Mike Kasperzak, who voted to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in 2005, tried to convince the two dissenters to change their mind, to no avail. The council agreed to consider another, non-emergency ordinance that requires only four votes. But such an ordinance would not take effect for 30 days, and could be challenged by dispensaries that are established now but violate any new ordinances passed later.

A key reason for the emergency ordinance was to give the council time to consider what parts of the city should be open to the dispensaries. One potential applicant, Brian David, has said he would like to begin operation in the Shoreline area, away from schools and residential areas, a strategy endorsed by marijuana advocates who spoke at the meeting. But the desired location of other potential applicants is not known.

For Inks, the city simply didn't have a good enough reason to turn down any applicant, regardless of preferred location. He said a moratorium would be "delaying resolution for some people regarding their health. I think that weighs more than taking some urgency stance. I don't see any justification to pass this ordinance tonight."

We couldn't disagree more. At last week's meeting, no council member showed any interest in building a web of regulations around medicinal marijuana dispensaries. But even so, a little time was needed to do it right. Hopefully the chances for getting it right have not been jeopardized by two ill-considered votes.

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