Diamond Bar – At their March 18 meeting, the Diamond Bar City Council unanimously approved an ordinance repealing and replacing a chapter of the municipal code, thereby prohibiting the operation and establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.
The Council was introduced to the ordinance at a previous meeting and heard a second reading on the proposed ordinance at Tuesday night’s meeting, where City Manager, James DeStefano, and City staff recommended approval.
“While the use of medical marijuana is no longer a crime in California, the establishment and operation of retail medical marijuana dispensaries remains illegal under both state and federal law. To manage this conflict and retain local control, the City Council approved the first reading of Ordinance 04(2014), which permanently prohibits dispensaries from operating in Diamond Bar,” wrote Ryan McLean, Deputy City Manager, in a report prepared for the Council.
The Ordinance, however, was opposed by at least one group, who wrote to City Hall protesting the passage of the law on environmental grounds, and that enactment would prevent local medical marijuana patients from attaining their treatment without having to travel greater distances.
“The ordinance will have a significant effect on the environment and the City has failed to mitigate these impacts as required under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act),” wrote James Shaw, Executive Director of the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients (UMMP) in his letter to the City, dated March 3.
According to Shaw’s letter, UMMP is a not-for-profit civil rights organization that is devoted to defending and asserting the rights of medical cannabis patients. The non-profit also impugned City officials for committing to a particular approach toward regulating medical marijuana, stating it is, “…an extremely restrictive approach that, among other things, requires thousands of patients to drive outside the City to obtain their medicine because medical dispensaries are not allowed in the City.”
Shaw’s arguments were reputed in a memorandum made public by City Attorney, David DeBerry, dated March 10. DeBerry addressed the Shaw letter’s contention that an estimated 1,127 medical marijuana patients would have to drive to Pico Rivera, which is 22.6 miles away, and allegedly the nearest dispensary. This would result in more than 2.6 million miles of additional travel and generation of tons of additional greenhouse gas emissions.
DeBerry wrote that outside the fact that the environmental effects alleged in the letter “are highly speculative” and the fact that a quick search on the Internet discovered two medical marijuana dispensaries in the adjacent city of Pomona, DeBerry writes that the primary problem with the Shaw letter analysis is a misunderstanding of the effects of the ordinance in relation to CEQA.
“If anything, the Shaw letter is evidence that permitting a medical marijuana dispensary to open in the City could have significant environmental impacts when measured against the existing environmental setting and should the City permit a medical marijuana dispensary, it suggests a CEQA analysis be required,” DeBerry wrote.
Shaw’s letter also addressed mobile dispensaries, which are illegal in Diamond Bar. “It is reasonably foreseeable that mobile medical marijuana dispensaries currently operating in the City may cease to operate and patients may travel to visit…dispensaries or cultivate their own medicine in their homes; cultivation of medical marijuana, an inherently agricultural activity, especially in a residential setting, is and of itself contemplates environmental impacts which the City has failed to analyze,” wrote Shaw.
The next regularly scheduled City Council meeting is to be held on April 1, 6:30 p.m., in the AQMD/Government Center Auditorium, at 21865 Copley Drive.