Medical marijuana clinics banned for good in Downey

DOWNEY - Agreeing that medical marijuana dispensaries would negatively impact quality of life here, the City Council on Tuesday followed the recommendation of the Planning Commission and permanently prohibited marijuana collectives from operating in the city.Marijuana dispensaries have been banned in Downey since late 2009, when the city issued a temporary moratorium that was twice extended. The temporary ban was slated to expire Nov. 10 of this year. California voters approved legislation 15 years ago allowing citizens to possess, cultivate and use marijuana for medicinal purposes, and in 2003 then-Gov. Gray Davis signed into law the Medical Marijuana Program Act, which authorized the state to issue identification cards to qualified patients approved for medicinal marijuana. Under state law, marijuana dispensaries cannot be located within 600 feet of a school, but cities retain the right to further restrict their "location or establishment," city officials said. At a public hearing July 6, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended the City Council prohibit the dispensaries, finding that "the potential for adverse secondary impacts on the community outweigh any benefit that ease of access may provide to those that need medical marijuana." Best, Best & Krieger, the city's former law firm, wrote a whitepaper last year asserting that marijuana collectives attract violent crime, including armed robberies and murder. "The allowance of medical marijuana dispensaries can also increase noise and pedestrian traffic, including nonresidents in pursuit of marijuana and out of area criminals in search of potential targets," the law firm wrote in its report to Downey officials. "Certain crimes, such as drug-related offenses, occur just outside medical marijuana dispensaries since these marijuana centers regularly attract marijuana growers, drug users and drug traffickers." The City Council's decision Tuesday to permanently ban the dispensaries was unanimous. Councilman Mario Guerra was the only council member who offered comment. "I oppose strongly how it is handled," he said. "I have no problem with marijuana for medical purposes, but I have a problem with how it's handled." -Eric Pierce, city editor

********** Published: July 28, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 15