Mobile medical marijuana dispensaries can't operate in Arroyo Grande, officials decide

clambert@thetribunenews.comOctober 10, 2012 

About 10 people urged the Arroyo Grande City Council to allow mobile medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city, saying the cannabis eases ill people’s pain and gives them a safer alternative to prescription medications.

The council, though, voted unanimously to prohibit such dispensaries from operating within the city.

Arroyo Grande has had rules in place since 2008 prohibiting the establishment of storefront medical marijuana dispensaries. But its ordinance did not explicitly refer to mobile dispensaries, such as a delivery service.

The council remedied that discrepancy Tuesday with little discussion. Council members had given initial approval to the new rules on Sept. 25 in a 4-1 vote, with council member Caren Ray dissenting, but had to bring the ordinance back for final approval. The updated ordinance will go into effect in 30 days.

“I don’t dispute for a moment that there are people with legitimate needs for medical marijuana,” Councilman Joe Costello said. “The question for council is, where does this stand between state and federal law?”

City attorney Tim Carmel noted there have been conflicting opinions and judgments on the issue, but that federal law takes precedence over inconsistent state law.

Proposition 215, approved by California voters in 1996, allows the growing and distribution of marijuana for medical use that has been approved by a physician. However, that law conflicts with federal law, which bars marijuana use.

In June, the San Luis Obispo County civil grand jury released a report stating the county had effectively stopped “brick and mortar” medical marijuana dispensaries from operating locally, but it has done little to regulate the mobile services that sprang up to deliver the medication to patients.

The grand jury recommended cities develop ordinances regulating mobile medical marijuana collective delivery services, require such operations to possess a business license and seller’s permit, and compile lists of all such businesses within their respective boundaries.

On Tuesday, the council heard from numerous speakers who said that without safe access to medical marijuana, some patients are forced to buy it illegally or drive far distances to obtain it.

“There are a lot of people who have a disability who rely on this for their pain medication,” said Richard Donald, chairman of the San Luis Obispo chapter of Americans for Safe Access. “We don’t want law-abiding people taking care of their medical needs being sent to prison for doing what they had to do.”

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