The La Mesa City Council on December 8 unanimously approved the first reading of two ordinances banning medical marijuana cultivation, deliveries, and mobile dispensaries. One ordinance includes a misdemeanor penalty for dispensing and delivery. In addition, operating a mobile dispensary in the city will be considered a public nuisance and "subject to abatement pursuant to all available remedies."
The council voted on ordinances in city attorney Glenn Sabine's report about actions to take because governor Jerry Brown signed three bills to enact the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.
The bills (assembly bills 266 and 243, and senate bill 643), approved on September 11, 2015, were components of the act approved by Brown on October 9. The act that becomes law on January 1 establishes a state licensing system for areas including commercial cultivation, sale, delivery, and testing. If the city didn't have an ordinance regulating or prohibiting cultivation, the state Department of Food and Agriculture would become the sole licensing authority on March 1, 2016. The dual-licensing requirement means businesses must have permission from the state and city to operate.
La Mesa's permissive zoning prohibits land uses that aren’t listed in the zoning code. Maintaining local control, according to Sabine's report, meant adopting an ordinance prohibiting delivery services and mobile dispensaries.
Before voting, the council heard from two ordinances supporters and one opponent. One endorsement came from Lorenzo Higley of CASA (Community Action Service Advocacy for) Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods. He also referred to the defeat of Proposition J.
The proposition on the November 4, 2014, ballot would have authorized and regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in La Mesa. In a December 9 interview, deputy city clerk Nancy Neufeld said 7452 people (53.6 percent) voted against the proposition, and 6450 people (46.4 percent) voted for it.
At the meeting, La Mesa resident Lisa Bridges urged the council to "retain local control." She is listed on the CASA website as Santee Solutions Coalition project coordinator.
Vey Linville of the San Diego Chapter of Americans for Safe Access said permissive zoning "has failed. There are now in La Mesa many more" dispensaries. He told the council that this month his organization would send them an "iron-clad" ordinance to regulate dispensaries. Linville (a Spring Valley resident with emphysema) said, "As a patient, we don't want to take legal action."
Vice mayor Bill Baber said, "We want to maintain local control [but] I think in the future we will have to revisit" this because of Linville's statement.
The council then approved the regulation labeled Ordinance A in Sabine's report. It prohibits the state from issuing "a license for the cultivation of marijuana (medicinal or otherwise)."
Ordinance B added a chapter to the municipal code about mobile dispensing and delivery. The ordinance prohibits delivery by "transport or transfer, by any means, of marijuana business, regardless of where the marijuana business is located, to any person or place within the city of La Mesa except for statutory delivery." According to the state code, statutory delivery involves a primary caregiver delivering marijuana "for the personal medicinal purposes of that caregiver's qualified patient."
The ordinance stated mobile dispensary "means any conveyance powered or unpowered, licensed or unlicensed, manned or unmanned from which marijuana is offered for viewing; sampling; concurrent or subsequent sale; or to be given away; provided; distributed, or dispensed, and which is owned, leased, operated, used, maintained, or controlled by a medical marijuana business."
Operating a mobile dispensary "means parking, stopping, idling, or standing on public or private property for the purpose of permitting marijuana to be offered for viewing…or dispensed."
On December 9, I called code compliance officer Allen Edwards and asked about the number of dispensaries in La Mesa since Proposition J was defeated. He referred me to senior planner Chris Jacobs. I left a message and will update this story when Jacobs responds.
In an interview after the meeting, Linville noted that 2016 was the 20th anniversary of the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized medical marijuana. I asked several times about his statement regarding the increase in dispensaries. He spoke about other topics, once saying that regulations reduced black-market crime.
"It would make a lot more sense to license and regulate," Linville said. "A person in La Mesa may be able to get a delivery. We may need to test that in court." Asked about mobile delivery, Linville said, "You rarely know where a delivery service is located. You don't ask."