For many months, media outlets have covered the issue of marijuana dispensaries in north county cities opening up in conflict with cities’ licensing and land use regulations.
AB 1300, recently signed into California law, explicitly allows counties and cities to ban or regulate pot shops. Specifically, the bill states, “Nothing…shall prevent a city or other local governing body from adopting and enforcing …local ordinances that regulate the location, operation, or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative or collective…or the civil and criminal enforcement of local ordinances.”
Governor Brown signed AB 1300, which was approved by the State Assembly 71 – 1 and State Senate 38 – 0, demonstrating significant bi-partisan and near unanimous support. AB 1300 clearly establishes local oversight and control, since it is local government and law enforcement agencies who have to deal with the often adverse impacts of marijuana dispensaries in communities that may include increased crime. A recent study found that adolescent marijuana use is higher in states with medical marijuana laws, and that perceptions of risk of marijuana use are lower (Annals of Epidemiology, September 2011). While the study could not determine causality, it is an outcome that warrants serious consideration as local jurisdictions continue to face the issue of marijuana availability.
According to the Los Angeles Times (August 31, 2011), the bill’s author, Assembly member Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley) stated, “This is a great victory for communities which have been struggling with rogue dispensaries popping up overnight without any regard for their laws relating to business licensure and zoning restrictions. The new law will provide a framework for stability after years of struggling with a Wild West, lawless proliferation of dispensaries across California that sometimes constitute a public nuisance or worse.”
AB 1300 was written in response to the mounting concerns of community members and local governmental officials that in some cities, pot shops were beginning to outnumber Starbucks. Pot shop operators and their attorneys claimed it was their right to sell pot in a storefront, even if local zoning codes and laws forbid it. Locally, many cities in North County have been affected by the increasing number of marijuana businesses operating in retail centers, often without lawful business permits. “It isn’t fair that most businesses follow the laws of the city in which they work, while pot shop owners feel like they can operate with total disrespect for a city’s regulations,” stated Jon Hanson, a local business owner.
AB 1300 verifies what many cities and counties have already known is their right – to ban pot shops. The 2008 Attorney General Guidelines on this issue states, “Although marijuana dispensaries have been operating in California for years, dispensaries, as such, are not recognized under the law.”
AB 1300 is effective on January 1, 2012. Until then, cities and counties will continue to use their land-use authority to control dispensaries, pot shops and other marijuana businesses.
Written by Melvin Chang a Carmel Valley resident.