Mountain View Voice

News - February 26, 2010

City may allow medi-pot dispensaries by year's end

Temporary ban approved, giving staffers enough time to craft regulations

by Daniel DeBolt

The City Council approved a one-year ban on medical marijuana dispensaries Tuesday to allow time for the city to craft regulations allowing medical marijuana to be sold in Mountain View.

There now appears to be three potential Mountain View dispensary operators, including a man who introduced himself to the council Tuesday as corporate attorney Matt Rocero.

"It can be a very important source of tax revenue," he said. "I have been here since 5 p.m. and heard everything you have been talking about," referring to city's potential budget cuts.

City attorney Jannie Quinn said the council would hold a study session on medical marijuana-related issues before summer break, and proposed regulations could be approved by the council sometime by the end of the year — which is when a City Council election will also be occurring.

Approved by a 4-2 vote, the "non urgency" prohibition takes effect within 30 days and would sunset on April 18, 2011. It was proposed after an "urgency" interim ban brought before the council two weeks ago failed to gain the six votes it required due to opposition by council members John Inks and Tom Means. Both continued their opposition to any kind of temporary ban on Tuesday.

So far no council member is clearly opposed to having a dispensary in Mountain View. Council member Laura Macias appeared to come close two weeks ago when she noted that the federal government still has not legalized medical marijuana — though the Obama administration has turned a blind eye to it — possibly putting the city in a difficult position.

"There is an interest in making this available," Macias said Tuesday.

Medical marijuana lobbyist Max Del Real said he was surprised at the lack of opposition to medical marijuana in Mountain View after he was hired by potential operator Brian David. Rocero said 64 percent of Santa Clara County voters supported Proposition 215, designed to legalize medical marijuana in California, in 1996. Jonathan Lustig, another local advocate of medical marijuana, added that Mountain View had a higher percentage of support than any other city.

Advocates said it shouldn't take long for the city to create regulations, which would specify where in the city dispensaries are allowed, among other things. "There are over 120 cities and counties in this state with comprehensive ordinances," Rocero said.

The advocates noted that cities usually prohibit dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools and other social gathering places. Some had previously said the best place to operate a dispensary is in the city's out-of-the-way industrial parks, but Mayor Ronit Bryant questioned whether that would be best.

"As a former very sick person I don't know if I would want to go as out of the way as possible to get my medicine," she said.

In an effort to address certain issues early on, Means made a motion to not tax medical marijuana dispensaries or place a limit on how many could open in Mountain View. He and Inks, a fellow Libertarian, were the only members who voted for the motion and it failed.

Council member Jac Siegel said he would consider a tax on medical marijuana, though Bryant joined others, including potential dispensary operator Lustig, in saying it is inappropriate to tax sick people.

"I don't think we should exploit our patients to take care of our parks and roadways," Lustig said.

At one point, city attorney Quinn came under fire for a perceived bias against medical marijuana. Inks said it would be easy for her office to "shelve" the ordinance, while advocates criticized her "draconian language" in the ban. Inks was also critical of the city attorney for including in her report a "white paper" from the California Police Chiefs Association which opposes medical marijuana dispensaries.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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