County to slow marijuana dispensaries
In an attempt to buy time for an expected state Supreme Court ruling regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, Tulare County’s Board of Supervisors Tuesday passed an interim zoning ordinance prohibiting any new medical marijuana businesses.
The ordinance only pertains to new businesses and does not shut down any existing businesses if they meet zoning regulations. The ordinance addresses cooperatives, collectives and dispensaries and is in effect for just 45 days — expiring May 3.
Supervisors voted 5-0 to pass the ordinance over the claim that their action would be illegal.
William Romaine, an attorney representing Foothill Growers, said the Compassionate Care Act passed by California voters in 1996 that allowed the legal use and possession of marijuana for medical purposes only allows counties to regulate medical marijuana, not ban it.
“Prop. 217 in 1996 dictates what can and cannot be done. The said proposition does not allow counties to prohibit the use or sale of marijuana,” he said, adding, “This act would be in violation of state law.”
However, Mike Spata, county Resource Management Agency assistant director of planning, told the board that marijuana continues to be a problem and much of that is associated with those taking advantage of the medical marijuana law. He gave the board 30 newspaper articles detailing criminal activity relating to medical marijuana.
He said the interim urgency ordinance would allow the county time to “research, review, investigate and create any necessary new or amended policies, ordinances, and processes regarding medical marijuana” facilities.
He cited the dangers that have been created by the large marijuana grow sites that have popped up around the county the past several years.
Tammy Murray, who has operated a medical marijuana dispensary for five years, told the board she has followed all laws and operates a legal business. She gave the supervisors 30 articles detailing the benefits of medical marijuana, calling it a “miracle drug” if it were a prescription.
“Marijuana helps a lot of people,” she said, adding that closing her business down would be a “death sentence” for both her customers and her family.
However, county counsel clarified and the board said the ordinance needs to be worded differently to indicate it would not apply to existing businesses such as Murray’s.
A person with the medical marijuana collective on Highway 190 below Success Lake — BTBB — said they have no intention to close. He said that store — mistakenly identified as High Dreams in Tuesday’s story in The Recorder — opened just seven days ago. High Dreams is not a medical marijuana store.
The board set a public hearing on the interim ordinance for April 23.