By Katrina Van Duzee/Garden Grove Journal
Garden Grove took the first step toward regulating medical-marijuana dispensaries at Tuesday’s city council meeting by requiring all dispensaries to register with the city.
The council voted 5-0 to adopt an urgent ordinance requiring a registration process and cut-off business establishment date, limiting the dispensaries able to apply. Currently it is illegal to own and operate a medical marijuana dispensary in the city.
“I would like to dispense with marijuana period. I think it’s a disaster and just an open door for drugs, certainly in young people,” Council Member Bruce Broadwater said.” I’m going to vote for this and I hope it does deter the amount of marijuana dispensaries we have. I think we need to get a grip on it.”
The city of Garden Grove houses about 30 dispensaries often disguised as retail or commercial businesses, according to a staff report. Although the city passed an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries in 2008, the ban has not been effectively enforced and the shops are currently being run free of regulations or permits.
“I feel that this drug needs to be dispensed by a bona fide medical doctor or a pharmacist with a license,” Garden Grove resident Verla Lambert said. “If it has to be, we better do it right.”
The expedited passage of this ordinance has nothing to do with the city supporting medical marijuana use, but a move to reduce the number of dispensaries and eliminate those operating in areas deemed inappropriate, according to staff.
“I feel this is needed for our city to have some control over the facilities and make sure our children and families are protected from illegal activities. I think it is needed for our police department to have these codes in order to carry out their work,” Council Member Dina Nguyen said.
The registration process requires dispensaries to pay a fee and submit various documents proving they have conducted business on or before June 30, 2011. Ultimately it will be up to the city manager to decide which companies are granted status as an “established operation.” Dispensaries that do not comply with the ordinance will face citations and operators will be charged with a misdemeanor.
Cities such as Dana Point, Anaheim and Costa Mesa have aggressively fought medical marijuana dispensary owners in court to eliminate them from their cities. In effort to save potential lawsuit expenditures, Garden Grove is tackling the problem through establishing a regulation process.
Garden Grove spent about $219,000 on a four-year court battle over marijuana confiscated from resident Felix Kha, who claimed he used marijuana for medical purposes. In 2009 the court ruled in favor of Kha and ordered Garden Grove police to return the marijuana.
“If I had my druthers I think I would try to require every doctor to write the prescriptions and have them filled by pharmacies, but that’s not going to happen, so I think we have to work with what we have under these circumstances to attempt to try and control the situation,” Mayor Bill Dalton said.