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By Brian Hews and Tammye McDuff
In response to the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), the Cerritos City Council, at its regular Jan. 28 meeting, approved changes on various sections of the Cerritos Municipal Code, prohibiting the cultivation and delivery of medical marijuana in the City.
The changes amended Section 22.40.300 pertaining to “Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.”
According to the staff report, the Cerritos Municipal Code only regulated medical marijuana dispensaries, where medical marijuana is made available to a primary caregiver or a qualified patient. Medical marijuana dispensaries are outright prohibited within the City of Cerritos.
In addition, mobile medical marijuana dispensaries, including deliveries of medical marijuana via mobile dispensary, are prohibited within the City per the existing Municipal Code.
While regulations exist for medical marijuana dispensaries, no such regulations exist within the Cerritos Municipal Code for the cultivation or commercial delivery of medical marijuana.
The rush to amend the code was in response to State lawmakers correcting what they say was a mistake in California’s first comprehensive medical marijuana regulations, which were adopted in the closing hours of last year’s legislative session.
A paragraph in that 70-page bill gave the State authority to license growers in jurisdictions that do not have their own laws on the books by March 1.
As a result, dozens of cities, such as Cerritos, Artesia, and Downey, and counties seeking to preserve local control over pot have rushed to enact bans on marijuana growing before the deadline.
Some apply only to commercial cultivation, but many would also prohibit personal pot gardens that have been legal — or at least overlooked — for 19 years.
The bill passed both the Assembly and Senate and is on Gov. Brown’s desk for signature.
City Attorney Mark Steres noted, “A bill is currently on the Governors’ desk to lift the current legislation deadline of March 1, 2016. We recommend that the City proceed with the ordinance, it is prudent for the Council to adopt a prohibition of mobile deliveries within the city.”
In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, making California the first state to allow the use of medical marijuana. Since then, 22 more states, including the District of Columbia and Guam have enacted related laws.
A total of 23 states now allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs. Recently, efforts in 17 states allow use of ‘low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)’ products in limited situations or as a legal defense. Those programs are not counted as comprehensive medical marijuana programs.
At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a substance under the Controlled Substances Act (Act) where Schedule I substances are considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use, which makes the distribution of marijuana a federal offense.
The Act does not recognize any State laws.
The Act prohibits any multi-state Department of Transportation registered delivery companies, such as UPS and Fedex, from delivering marijuana.
Consequently, private delivery companies deliver marijuana direct from the dispensary.
In October of 2009, the Obama Administration sent a memo to federal prosecutors encouraging them not to prosecute people who distribute marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with state law.
In August 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to their marijuana enforcement policy. The statement reads, “That while marijuana remains federally illegal, the USDOJ expects states like Colorado and Washington to create strong, state-based enforcement efforts…. and will defer the right to challenge their legalization laws.” The department also reserves the right to challenge the states at any time they feel it’s necessary.
Some of the most common policy questions regarding medical marijuana include how to regulate its recommendation, dispensing, and registration of approved patients.
Some states and localities without dispensary regulations are experiencing a boom in new businesses, in hopes of being approved before presumably stricter regulations are made.
Mayor Pro Tem George Ray commented his hope would be doctors and pharmacists agree to have it dispensed as other medical prescriptions would be. However saying he is going to err on the side of caution, he supported the amendment.
Councilman Mark Pulido seconded the amendment, addressing his concerns which stem from a compassionate point of view for Cerritos residents that need medical marijuana and cannot attain access via delivery saying, “In an abundance of caution and concern I support the amendment this evening, with the allowance of the Council revisit the issue at a later date.”
In other news, the Council approved a bid for resurfacing the CCPA floor to Petra CPS of Placentia in the amount of $244,000. The cost exceeded the budget by $70,000, consequently, the City moved money from the South Street Sewer Rehabilitation Project into the approved project.
The city also awarded a $374,440 contract to Complete Landscape Care for landscaping and irrigation maintenance of center medians and arterial planters; awarded a $320,800 contract to Landcare for landscaping and irrigation maintenance of Assessment District – 6, along with freeway landscape; awarded $53,114 contract to Valley Crest for the landscaping and irrigation maintenance at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, the Cerritos Senior Center, Pat Nixon Park, and other city owned property.
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