A moratorium on marijuana dispensaries operating in Murrieta will continue for another year as an alternative to the ban adopted by council in 2005.
At Tuesday’s city council meeting members voted unanimously for the extension based on information they received from the city’s legal staff.
Murrieta City Attorney Robert Mahlowitz told council under current California case law there is no clear defined wording on whether cities may regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
There are currently two cases on the banning of dispensaries in California under review by the California Supreme Court. Mahlowitz cited to council the cases of: The City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Center, and City of Lake Forest v. Evergreen Holistic Collective.
Mahlowitz said the ban from the City of Riverside was upheld by court earlier this year but the ban by Orange County’s Lake Forest was overturned.
“The state laws are currently in flux,” said Mahlowitz, adding California does not have clear law stating that cities may regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
Pack v. Superior Court is another case under going further review by an appellate court. The Pack case stemmed from a Long Beach ordinance that created a dispensary permitting system. The ordinance was reversed based on the grounds it violated a federal Controlled Substance Act.
Murrieta is also currently tangled in two dispensary lawsuits, the Greenhouse Cannabis Club and Cooperative Medical Group.
Donald Lambert was the only member of the public who spoke out against the ban. Lambert said there is a need to have the dispensaries because they provide safe access to the drug.
He also stated he was against marijuana being classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Council member Kelly Bennett asked the city attorney for clarification on what council was voting on.
“The staff is not opining on any use of medical marijuana, is that correct?” said Bennett.
Murrieta City Attorney Leslie Devaney said, “Yes, this ban does not go into the pros and cons of the use of medical marijuana.”
Council member Randon Lane said, “The issue tonight is not the value of marijuana but the city is in limbo and limbo is not a good place to be in legally.”
Devaney recommended council to review the city’s land use and consider where the dispensaries, if eventually allowed, would operate.
Tuesday’s vote for the extension is the last the city can ask for by law.
Michelle Mears-Gerst is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.