By Katrina Van Duzee/Garden Grove Journal
Garden Grove is now the second city in Orange County to pass regulations allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to legally operate as opposed to moratoriums, bans or fighting collectives in court.
The city council voted 5-0 Tuesday to adopt an ordinance requiring dispensaries operating before June 30, 2011 to register with the city, pay a $200 fee and furnish proof they are a legitimate business in accordance with the state marijuana regulations.
“I personally would like to vote against the whole process, but I know that going through all the lawsuits that we go through would be very costly for the city,” Council Member Bruce Broadwater said.
Although council members voted in favor of a ban on marijuana in 2008, this change in course came after around 30 dispensaries cropped-up throughout the city. Operating illegally under various business aliases, these clinics have been selling products free from regulations and zoning limitations.
“It is very important for patients like me to have safe and affordable access to our medicine. I’m too old to buy it in a back alley,” said Marla James the director of the O.C. Americans for Safe Access. “Using medical marijuana and getting off the prescription medications has made such a difference in my life.”
Garden Grove now joins Laguna Woods as the only other city in the county to take an alternative approach to the marijuana issue, avoiding costly court battles and ineffective bans on the rapidly expanding drug of choice for many medical care recipients. Thirty-five cities such as Lake Forest, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley and Anaheim have made the decision to ban medical marijuana dispensaries or take legal action against the drug and its distributors.
“I don’t think we’re [the city] progressive. I just think were doing what we can to resolve a horrible problem,” Broadwater said.
The city staff and police department have acknowledged an increase in violence as a possible outcome of this new legalization process for dispensaries, they said the current situation is out of control.
The concept behind a permit process is to have the ability to limit the number of dispensaries, decide where they can operate and monitor their behavior, according to the staff report.
The next step the city is expected to take is to create legislation that limits the operating zones for dispensaries to commercial zones, not in residential or school zones. Currently some dispensaries are neighbors to daycares and residents, according to City Manager Matthew Fertal.
“The definition of medicine is the signs of healing and medical marijuana heals,” said Keith, the director of a collective operating in Garden Grove.
“I’m sure you guys (the council) can set the bar for other cities out there on this issue.”
The deadline for dispensaries and collectivesto register and apply for a permit through the city is Sept. 23.