Though 56 percent of Imperial Beach residents voted in favor of Proposition 215 and medical marijuana in 1996, the Imperial Beach City Council took the final step to ban marijuana dispensaries from operation within city limits at its July 20 meeting.
Upon council's recommendation, city staff amended the definition of what constitutes a medical marijuana dispensary.
Original language in the ordinance defined a medical marijuana dispensary as two or more persons that supply or cooperatively cultivate marijuana between qualified patients and primary caregivers.
In the amended version, the ordinances exempt interactions between medical marijuana patients and caregivers and the definition applies only when marijuana is supplied to four or more persons and when marijuana is cooperatively cultivated within the city by four or more persons.
Violating the ordinances may result in administrative citations and fines, civil lawsuits and penalties and nuisance abatement actions.
These ordinances do not ban the use of medical marijuana in the city for qualified patients and caregivers that have the right to possess, cultivate and use medical marijuana under state law.
Marcus Boyd, vice chairman for the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access, said he has seen first-hand the benefits that safe access brings to both sick and dying patients and the community at large.
He said that for two years he presented council facts of why a ban on collective cultivation is not the way to go for the city as it hurts the most vulnerable people in the community.
"After two years, you still choose to ignore them," he said.
Boyd said council heard from several attorneys on why a ban of this nature is not legal, including City Attorney Jennifer Lyon who concurred with the San Diego Office of County Counsel.
"After hearing all of their legal advice and hearing the pending decision in the Anaheim case, it really is surprising, shocking and a little embarrassing that you would still proceed with this ordinance as it currently stands," he said.
Boyd said though Imperial Beach is small, its citizens deserve equal representation under the law and respect for the people living and voting here.
City Manager Gary Brown recommended the council adopt a ban based in part on the belief that dispensaries may increase crime and the cost of drafting an ordinance would be expensive.
"Although you may be done with this issue, I and the community of Imperial Beach are committed to creating regulations for safe access that comply with the San Diego County Jury's recommendations and bring clarity to this issue, once and for all," Boyd said.
In August 2009, the council adopted a moratorium for medical marijuana distribution facilities in the city which is set to expire next month.
On July 7, 2010, the council considered a response to the San Diego Grand Jury and introduced and adopted an ordinance to extend the moratorium. Staff provided a timeline for the consideration on permanent regulations and the council reviewed and adopted the timeline in September 2010.
Staff provided the council with three options related to distribution facilities: regulate, ban or allow the moratorium to expire. After a 45-day public review process and a postponement, the council held a public hearing on June 15, 2011.
In public comments leading up to a final decision, the City Council heard from residents for and against a ban, including cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy . Councilman Bilbray cast the lone dissenting votes in favor of medical marijuana.
A zoning ordinance adopted by the council July 6 takes effect upon approval by the California Coastal Commission.
This is agenda item 4.1 on the July 20, 2011, City Council Agenda Packet.