Tag Archives: marijuana dispensaries

Diamond Bar: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Officially Banned

Closed Dispensary

Photo Courtesy: Google Images

BY ARIEL CARMONA, JR.

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.

Diamond Bar: Medical Marijuana: Still Available Locally?

BY ARIEL CARMONA JR.

Diamond Bar – Last month, Diamond Bar followed suit with many San Gabriel Valley cities which have moved to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in the county. At their recent meeting on Jan. 21, the City Council moved to amend the City’s municipal code prohibiting the operation and establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries for 45 days in order to comply with Federal law and in order to give City staff time to enact a future ordinance permanently banning dispensaries as a permitted use under the City’s current zoning laws.

Council Member Jack Tanaka said the last dispensary in the City operating several years ago was monitored by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, but the City didn’t experience any problems with the facility at the time. “As long as people had their prescriptions, we left them alone,” said Tanaka, who added, “Things may change as a result of the emergency ordinance the City just passed and as a result of the trend by San Gabriel Valley cities to enforce Federal law. That’s what the Planning Department is going to be looking into the next 45 days.”

Tanaka said mobile dispensaries would also be subject to the City’s amended zoning ordinances. “Normally mobile businesses still have to get licenses to come into the city.” He added that he was not aware of any mobile dispensaries delivering into Diamond Bar but because of the newly approved ordinance, law enforcement would have grounds to shut down any operation if it was made aware of one.”

Citing criminal behavior within the City associated with the dispensaries last summer, through the approval of a similar ordinance, the City of Covina also banned all types of medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within city limits. According to a local newspaper’s account, the City’s decision followed a California Supreme Court ruling in May 2013 that allows cities to make their own decisions on whether medical marijuana dispensaries can operate within their borders.

However, despite the approved bans, there are still medical mobile dispensaries (MMDs) delivering strands of medical marijuana such as Indica, Sativa and edibles, working out of the San Gabriel Valley and delivering to surrounding areas such as La Puente, Pomona, Walnut, La Verne, El Monte, Covina and other parts of the county, according to an online directory posted by High Times Magazine. These dispensaries claim to have “new strains coming every day” and even offer discounts for seniors and college students, as long as they can verify they possess a valid medical marijuana card.

Public information made available by the City of Covina’s staff in 2013 identified at least four services within ten miles that advertised directly within the city on “Weedmaps.com,” an Internet listing service. Staff reports to the City Council last summer stated, “In other parts of the state, shuttered businesses turned to delivery services instead. There is reason to expect the same in the City of Covina in light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, Covina’s cooperation with Federal law enforcement, and its own aggressive action to shut down MMDs.”

Madeline Balsz, a representative from the Covina City Clerk’s office, confirmed the City’s ordinance also banned mobile dispensaries and deliveries. Wording from the ordinance (No. 13-2022) made public by City staff states, “No person shall deliver marijuana or marijuana infused products, such as tinctures, baked goods or other consumable products, to any location within the City from a medical marijuana dispensary, regardless of where the medical dispensary is located.” A call to City Attorney, Michael Montgomery, to clarify the statutes was not returned at press time, but Lieutenant John Curley of the Covina Police Department said deliveries made by mobile dispensaries into the City would be considered a violation of the City’s statutes.

According to a San Gabriel Valley Tribune report, a Federal crackdown in the City of La Puente forced the last three remaining collectives in that city to shut down two years ago.

However, the website, Where’s Weed?, lists a number of marijuana dispensaries in La Puente which may still be operating under the dispensary delivery business model which does not necessitate a storefront and thus avoids Federal crackdowns. Google searches indicate similar delivery services are operational in Chino, Glendora, Pomona and Rancho Cucamonga, among other San Gabriel Valley cities.

Diamond Bar: Hotel To Replace Honda, DB Bans MJ

By Ariel Carmona, Jr.

Diamond Bar – The Diamond Bar City Council approved several resolutions at the Jan. 21 meeting dealing with crucial development decisions in the City, including a proposal to establish a zoning district for the possible construction of a hotel at the site formerly known as the Honda Dealership, and an emergency ordinance amending the City’s Municipal Code prohibiting the operation and establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in order to comply with Federal laws, among other items.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, the Council approved the first reading of Ordinance 1(2014), which would establish a new overlay zone district to promote and facilitate the development of a prominent site, which was formerly the location of the Honda Dealership and a Burger King drive-thru restaurant, located across the 60 Freeway off-ramp, in a manner staff reports describe as, “Consistent with the City Council’s adopted goals and objectives since 2009.”

The City’s Staff Report to the Council specified the City’s plans for redevelopment, including specific plans to revitalize the Burger King and Honda property areas, “In a way that provides the greatest net benefit to the community.” The staff determined, based on the criteria set forth in the Council’s goals and objectives, that the highest and best use for the overlay would be a hotel.

“Any future reuse of the land would require a hotel to be the anchor use,” said Greg Gobman, Community Development Director. “And, any secondary uses on that site would be limited to those prescribed in the Development Code,” he added.
City staff told the Council that a world-renowned consultant took several factors into account to determine what would be the most optimal use of the property. According to the report, two major, mutually exclusive projects have been approved next to the Honda site: The Industry Business Center (IBC), and an NFL Stadium. Under the IBC scenario, a business park including office and industrial space would be built out, while the stadium project would include an ancillary office, medical and retail uses. Neither option would include a hotel.

The staff concluded that based upon the analysis of the consultant, the highest and best use of the Honda property is one with a hotel anchor, with project-specific characteristics dependent upon other factors. “The Honda site itself is literally set aside from the rest of the City. That’s also true figuratively in that its physical isolation and its prominent location at the convergence of two freeways is where we see 200,000 vehicles passing by each day, and in addition to this site being located right at existing and future on/off ramps, there is tremendous opportunity to develop this site in ways that really are not possible elsewhere,” said Gobman.

After hearing feedback from a resident opposing the proposed hotel development option, the Council weighed in on the issue. “I think the opportunity there is to capture the between $600,000 and $1 million in transient occupancy taxes, so I think it makes sense to take that action on this property,” said Mayor Pro Tem, Steve Tye.

In other actions, the Council voted 5-0 to adopt an emergency ordinance prohibiting the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in the City. Previously, the City’s code permitted one use, but City Manager, James DeStefano, said that code may be in conflict with Federal law. He pointed out that the City does not have any dispensaries currently operating.
According to staff reports made public by the City, the conflict between State and Federal laws has led to many Southern California cities, including Whittier, San Dimas, Fullerton, and other cities in Orange and Los Angeles Counties, to place restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries, as a permitted land use or place a moratorium on the establishment of such a use.

In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, which enabled seriously ill patients to legally possess, use, and cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes under State law. Subsequently, SB420 was enacted by the State Legislature to clarify the scope of the Act, and to allow local jurisdictions like Diamond Bar to adopt and enforce rules and regulations consistent with the Act.

The emergency ordinance prohibits the establishment or operation of what the City deems retail marijuana dispensaries for a period of 45 days and ultimately provides the City time to adopt an ordinance permanently prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries as a permitted use under the City’s zoning laws.

During the subcommittee reports part of the meeting, Mayor Carol Herrera said that with a lot of people being out of work, there was a minor rash of burglaries during the holiday season. “We are intersected by two major freeways, so we are a relatively easy target,” said Herrera. “I have said before that we have an outstanding Sheriff’s Department that is on the alert to watch out for all of you”, she added. Herrera said officers noticed burglary tools and merchandise in a vehicle during two recent traffic stops. “That’s further evidence that our Sheriff’s Department is doing an outstanding job looking out for the homeowners, and for all of us.”

The next meeting of the Diamond Bar City Council is scheduled for Feb. 4, 6:30 p.m., in the Government Center South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Main Auditorium, located at 21865 Copley Drive, Diamond Bar.