CITY HALL — If City Council’s recent debate over a state medical marijuana bill is any indication of the dispensary discourse to come, expect references to the Venice boardwalk and ’60s cop shows.
Council declined a request from Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks to back a bill that would impose greater regulations on medicinal marijuana in the state.
City officials and Seabrooks recommended council throw its weight behind Senate Bill 1262, which would, among other things, reinforce local control of medical marijuana and impose tighter regulations on doctors who recommend its usage.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown requested that the item, which was posted on the consent calendar, be discussed further. It ultimately failed in a 4-to-2 vote.
Councilmember Bob Holbrook, the only member who has stated outright his plan to oppose medical marijuana dispensaries in the bay city, was absent from the meeting.
The Zoning Ordinance, which regulates land use throughout the city, is currently being rewritten. Currently at the Planning Commission level, it’s expected to go before council in the fall. Medical marijuana dispensaries have not been allowed in the city in the past, but elected officials are considering it in the Zoning Ordinance. The Planning Commission voted to support the allowance of the dispensaries, despite contrary recommendations from the police and city officials.
McKeown feared support of the bill would prejudice council’s future decision on dispensaries and noted that the point may soon be moot.
“I think, in California, within two years, we’re going to see the legalization of marijuana,” he said. “I don’t want to put ourselves on the wrong side of history here by focusing on the medical marijuana issue.”
Seabrooks noted that the bill’s passage would not impact council’s ability to decide the dispensary matter. Neither would it impact the legalization of marijuana.
“This isn’t to say that should decriminalization become a part of the conversation that circumstances shouldn’t change,” she said. “What it does is allow (City Hall) to implement a series of regulations that monitor such businesses as to time, place and manner, which is consistent with other businesses that open in the community.”
McKeown characterized the bill’s support of local control as “largely unnecessary.”
“We don’t need a state law to say that we have the ability to say no to medical marijuana dispensaries in our city,” he said. “That’s already been determined by a court.”
McKeown made reference to the television show “The Untouchables,” which followed the exploits of a police officer attempting to quash the notorious Chicago bootlegger Al Capone.
“It was only later in my life that I realized the whole problem,” he said. “Al Capone was an incorrigible criminal, but bootlegging only became possible because of Prohibition.”
Councilmember Gleam Davis opposed the measure, agreeing with many of McKeown’s points. She also agreed with some parts of the bill, including the requirement that a doctor and patient be in the same room when the former writes a prescription for the latter.
Davis called it “somewhat disturbing” when medical pot hawkers pitch the sale of marijuana to bystanders on the Venice boardwalk.
Councilmember Ted Winterer opposed the measure, noting that he didn’t want to send a signal either way before the dispensary debate.
Mayor Pam O’Connor favored the measure, claiming that the allowance of pot smoking could be considered a double-standard in a city that cracks down on cigarette smokers.
Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day was the other supporter, stating that regulation could help make the coming dispensary debate more manageable.