CITY HALL — Smoking of all kinds took a blow Tuesday night when the City Council both voted to ban smoking for new tenants of apartments and condos and, in a separate decision, approved a 45-day moratorium on any medical pot shops trying to open up in Santa Monica.

Anti-smoking advocates cheered when the council, with a 5-2 vote, finally passed a measure that would remove the right of new tenants to smoke in their homes and empower their neighbors to take them to court if they did so.

At the same time, landlords will be required to canvass existing tenants to determine whether or not they intend to smoke in their current residences.

Residents can choose to disclose their units as smoking or nonsmoking or refuse to say at all.

That information will be given to all new tenants when they move into a building, a point which raised privacy concerns amongst tenants’ rights advocates.

It was the third time the council had voted on the issue, approving it on first reading in July and then, in a highly unusual move, failing to pass it on second reading after Mayor Richard Bloom changed his vote, ostensibly over concerns of how a smoking ban would apply to medical marijuana users.

In the past, the matter was caught between council members who fought with the idea of prohibiting a legal activity in private residences and those who feared the negative health impacts of secondhand smoke from cigarettes and other substances.

Tuesday night was much the same, with council members scrambling for some way to push forward with the issue after multiple motions failed, killed largely by concerns of Councilmembers Bobby Shriver and Bob Holbrook that the measures didn’t go far enough and Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and Mayor Richard Bloom that others went too far.

In the end, five council members agreed to ban smoking. The other two, Councilmembers Pam O’Connor and Kevin McKeown, voted against the law.

Councilmembers also asked city officials to go back to representatives of condominium owners to figure out how they could best put the new rules in place and how homeowners’ associations could keep track of smoking versus non-smoking units.

The City Attorney’s Office didn’t connect with medical marijuana advocates, said Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky.

Although advocates always hope for dramatic change, they fully supported the incremental approach embraced by the council, said Esther Schiller, executive director for Smokefree Air For Everyone.

In a second item, the City Council voted unanimously to pass a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.

City Hall received 15 inquiries and one actual business license application for medical marijuana facilities, all as the city of Los Angeles grappled with a challenge to its recently-enacted ban on dispensaries.

Just as Santa Monica took up the issue, Los Angeles dropped it.

“On the day L.A. just repealed its ban, don’t we feel just a little silly and out of touch?” said Richard McDonald, president of Golden State Collective.

McDonald turned in a business license application for a collective cultivation operation at the same location within the city that he originally set up a medical marijuana testing facility, which was eventually shut down by city officials.

He’s in the middle of a lawsuit with City Hall over a denial of a business license for the testing lab.

City officials asked for more time to explore the regulatory landscape surrounding medical marijuana dispensaries, which they say is in flux until the California Supreme Court makes decisions on six medical marijuana cases it recently accepted.

That could take a year or more, said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, calling it a “phony excuse.”

McKeown pushed for a more aggressive approach, calling for a “serious look” at how to have functional marijuana dispensaries in the city.

“I don’t think it’s right for us in 2012 to keep our heads in the sand,” McKeown said.

Although the moratorium technically only lasts 45 days, it can stretch as much as two years if the council decides to extend it.

 

 

ashley@smdp.com