CA: Pot Initiative Pushing For Two Dispensaries On Ballot In Laguna Beach


Laguna Beach – A resident-sponsored initiative that allows for two medical marijuana dispensaries will be the only choice for voters on the November ballot.

In a special meeting, the Laguna Beach City Council voted 4-0 against a proposal to put a competing measure on the ballot. Instead, council members agreed to oppose the resident-backed initiative and directed staff members to draft a resolution stating their opposition and bring it back at the Sept. 13 meeting.

Mayor Steve Dicterow recused himself.

“I don’t want to be forced into selecting an ordinance that our staff has spent hours and hours to draft that addresses the worst aspects of this ballot initiative,” Councilman Robert Zur Schmiede said at the Aug. 8 meeting. “I don’t think we’ve had enough time to do it. I’m not going to do something with a gun to my head. That’s exactly what this is.

“I fully intend to work as hard as I can to defeat this ill-conceived, wrong initiative for our community,” he added.

Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella presented a final option for a city-sponsored measure to council members before their vote. The measure would have allowed one dispensary, located away from schools, parks, beach access points and neighborhoods, that would be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The city would require that no edible could appear in such a way that it could be mistaken by a child as candy or cookies.

The city-backed measure also would not allow the recreational sale of pot, and it would have imposed a 10 percent gross sales tax. Farinella reminded the council that surrounding cities all have banned medical marijuana dispensaries except for Laguna Woods, which in 2008 approved marijuana dispensaries but has not established one yet.

“I just want to reiterate that delivery to qualified patients is allowed under the law to Laguna Beach from dispensaries in Santa Ana or Los Angeles,” she told the council.

The debate over medical marijuana dispensaries began in April when the City Council learned of a ballot measure, sponsored by Laguna Beach residents Elizabeth Toomey and her nephew, Corey Aufhammer, that sought to repeal the city’s ban on dispensaries. Also, if a statewide measure for recreational marijuana use wins, the initiative would allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use.

The owners, operators and employees of the two dispensaries would be vetted through background checks and other security measures, said Debbie Tharp, who, with Toomey and Aufhammer, collected 2,414 signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.

They also would be licensed to operate in industrial or commercial areas and would be required to stay 1,000 feet away from schools. The only locations that could meet that requirement would be along Laguna Canyon Road or on Coast Highway. Planned operating hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In July, the City Council voted 4-0 in favor of drafting a medical marijuana ballot measure as a way for the city to keep local control. The measure would have allowed one dispensary under certain circumstances, with the operator being vetted by the city’s Planning Commission, City Manager John Pietig said at the time.

Advocates say having a dispensary would make it easier for patients to get access to their medicine. The closest dispensaries now are in Santa Ana.

In her report, Farinella, reminded the council that a recent survey found residents were split – 49 percent for and 45 percent against – when asked whether they would support a dispensary.

Although most agree that patients with valid medical marijuana cards should be able to have access, some worry that the presence of dispensaries would provide easier access to the drugs and promote crime and traffic issues.

“The ‘just say no’ approach might be the clearest choice for our citizens,” said Laguna Beach resident Matt Lawson, speaking at the meeting.

Resident Mike Beanan, a former Navy SEAL who suffers from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, told the council that he has used medical marijuana for 30 years.

He suggested the council consider establishing a collective to be used by Laguna Beach residents only.

“It would be operated as a showroom, with no sales. People would be directed to strains that best meet their needs,” he said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Pot Initiative Pushing For Two Dispensaries On Ballot In Laguna Beach
Author: Erika I. Ritchie
Contact: The Orange County Register
Photo Credit: Ed Andrieski
Website: The Orange County Register