By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
Medical marijuana users in Westminster want legal access to their chosen medicine within their own city and took their message to the Westminster City Council on Feb 24.
The turnout was sparked by two agenda items recommending business license appeal hearings for two associations that were recently denied licenses. Golden State Patients Association and Alternative Therapy Patients Association each applied for a business license for the purpose of opening a medical marijuana dispensary. The council approved the hearings for its April 14 meeting.
“We‘re talking about compassionate use,” Marla James said. “We want to see cities work in compassion with patients.”
Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in California in 1996, was nicknamed the compassionate use act.
In total, Eight medical marijuana patients asked the council to allow medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. All of the speakers repeated the phrase “safe access” and expressed the need for legal and regulated facilities.
“Please regulate these dispensaries,” Danielle Strand said. “By setting guidelines a healthy working relationship can be developed.”
The license denials were primarily based on Westminster Municipal Code Section 17.06.060 which states that “no land, building, structure or premises shall be permitted to be used for any purpose prohibited by federal, state or local law or that would be in conflict with the Constitution or laws of California or the United States.”
Although limited medical marijuana use and cultivation is legal under California law and not-for-profit collectives have opened in many cities throughout the state, all marijuana use, cultivation and trafficking remains illegal under federal law.
Many of the speakers asked the council to put state law ahead of federal law, citing a recent change in the justice department’s policy on prosecuting medical marijuana users and suppliers.
“The federal government is not interested in prosecuting anyone who is abiding by state laws,” David James said. “Please consider all the facts when you’re considering the medical marijuana issue.”
No one spoke as a member or representative of either association and only a couple of speakers referenced them specifically. However, Marla James said she was on the board of the Orange County chapter of Americans for Safe Access.
“Our goal is to work with cities to help patients get safe access,” she said. “The ASA will work with you on creating ordinances.”
Vivian Kirkpatrick Pilger, who addressed the council on several issues, spoke against allowing dispensaries in Westminster.
“If Garden Grove has a medical marijuana clinic let Westminster patients go there,” she said. “I don’t know that there’s a need to have medical marijuana dispensaries in Westminster.”
No one on the council responded to any of the speakers or addressed the issue. The hearings were approved as part of the meeting’s consent calendar, meaning the issue was considered routine and no discussion was warranted before voting.
The Westminster Redevelopment Agency will pay more than $12 million into California’s Supplemental Educational Augmentation Fund on May 10. California’s budget proposal for the 2009-10 fiscal year allows the state to take a total of $1.7 billion from city redevelopment agencies in 2010. Next year the state plans to take $350 million from local agencies with Westminster likely contributing nearly $2.5 million in 2011.
The money for this year’s payment will come from the redevelopment agency’s low-moderate-income housing fund which has an estimated balance of $31,848,377. The council quietly approved the payment at the Feb. 24 meeting. A lawsuit filed by the California Redevelopment Agency to stop the statewide collection is pending.
As previously reported by the Garden Grove Journal, Garden Grove will pay almost $8 million this year. Stanton is expected to pay just over $4 million.
It was a mix of good news and bad news on the alarm fee issue. As expected, the council kept the fees for residential alarm permits at $30, the same price for commercial permits. But residents now have to renew their permits every three years whereas businesses must still renew annually.
Westminster resident Lee Lieberg was pleased that the council at least made a distinction between residents and businesses. Both he and Mayor Margie Rice thanked the council for addressing the issue.
“Thank you for looking at this issue again,” Rice said to the other council members. “Many of the people who had called me were happy we were at least looking into it.”
The council will not meet on March 10 so the next Westminster City Council meeting is Wednesday March 24 at 7 p.m. Meetings are held in the Council Chambers at 8200 Westminster Blvd.