City council nips medical marijuana in the bud

Eric Haynes/Courier Councilmember Margaret McAustin observes the proposed chart on how to deal with municipal violations during the city council meeting at Pasadena City Hall on Monday, May 16, 2017. This part of the meeting being held was in regards to a call to action to suspend city utility services for illegal marijuana dispensaries in the city of Pasadena.

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The Pasadena City Council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance to shut off utilities to medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating illegally in the city, potentially cutting off patients from life saving medicine on Monday.

In 2015, the city council amended Chapter 8 of the Pasadena Municipal Code (PMC) to prohibit any and all commercial use of marijuana within the city limits. This includes but is not limited to medicinal, recreational, and delivery services for cannabis.

However, despite the zoning ordinance that effectively outlaws all commercial cannabis activity, the city council claims there are “as many as a dozen” dispensaries that continue to operate within the city.

The council approved an ordinance amendment to Titles 8 and 14 that will allow the city to suspend water and power to “illegal” businesses.

The PMC already provides the city council with the ability to disconnect utilities under chapter 13.08. This includes medicinal marijuana dispensaries, which were the primary targets. In their analysis the city council has found that up to 9 dispensaries are currently active in Pasadena.

Under the ordinance amendment, after four violations, the city can then shut off utilities despite the fact that California has passed Prop 215 in 1996 allowing the use of medical cannabis and Prop 64 just last year for recreational use. With Prop 64 allowing local agencies to regulate cannabis use, the city of Pasadena is driving forward with efforts to eradicate dispensaries.

The new ordinance enables the city to issue up to four citations, each increasing in cost from the previous violation. Next, the city will send a notice that the utilities are being suspended. Finally, the city can request suspension from Pasadena Water and Power in 21 to 39 days. However, with the time in between each citation, appeal, and administrative reviews the process can be extended to roughly 109 days.

In regards to buildings with multiple units that share a meter, the ordinance will not apply to those buildings.

The city will be coming back to the issue of the commercial ban and how to tax and regulate marijuana in August, potentially undoing the ordinance already in place.

In January 2018, legal business licenses can be provided for the commercial sale of marijuana.

Several residents of Pasadena came to speak on the issue with a strong showing of disapproval for this ordinance.

“This action would empower the city to needlessly close down Golden State Collective, leaving my coworkers and I unemployed and facing severe financial hardships,” Erin Shishmanian, a cannabis dispensary employee said.

There were also arguments approving of the ordinance with several residents pushing for even stronger measures and imploring the council to even ban legal dispensaries when the time came.

“I am against the use of marijuana in the city of Pasadena,” said Erica Foy, founder of Protect Pasadena Kids. “I have a fact sheet that shows marijuana use in the state of Colorado ranks fifth and is higher than the national average with a 56% increase in teens ages 12-17. Pretty shocking and sad if I don’t say so myself.”

Councilmember Margaret McAustin spoke in favor of the benefits of medical marijuana stating she had a family member who was, “wheelchair bound and now on the swim team.”

In June, the council will reconvene to finalize the ordinance.

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