Atascadero rejects medical marijuana

The Atascadero City Council on Tuesday approved a permanent ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, meaning it is no longer the only city in San Luis Obispo County without such an ordinance.

Earlier this month, however, Morro Bay’s City Council approved actions to work toward allowing a dispensary in that community.

Atascadero’s council approved the ban 5-0 after numerous members of the public, including medical marijuana users, asked the council to reconsider.

“I think we do have to be compassionate,” Councilman Tom O’Malley said as he and other council members supported an exemption in the ban to allow caregivers to deliver to qualified medical marijuana patients inside city limits, which the ordinance as originally presented hadn’t allowed.

That exemption doesn’t allow dispensaries to deliver into Atascadero.

Among those who spoke at the meeting were longtime Atascadero residents who said they depend on medical marijuana for relief of their sicknesses as do their loved ones. One man, suffering from blindness, said using marijuana relieves him of anxiety and other ailments associated with going blind. He was close to tears as he asked the council to reconsider because it would be difficult to obtain it out of the county.

Members of Americans for Safe Access — a national organization with local chapters that represents those who promote medical marijuana for therapeutic use and research — also spoke.

City Attorney Brian Pierik reiterated that dispensaries are prone to robberies and place those types of businesses at risk for criminal activity.

Other members of the public supported Pierik’s stance.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, which allows the use of medical marijuana under certain circumstances.

Fourteen states that allow medical marijuana are at odds with federal law, under which it is illegal. However, the Obama administration in 2009 said that the Justice Department would no longer prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries as long as they follow state laws.