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Newport Beach ordinance will ban marijuana growing and sales

Marijuana growing, dispensaries and delivery will be illegal in Newport Beach under a new ordinance.

The Newport Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the first reading of an ordinance banning the cultivation, processing, distribution and delivery of cannabis in the city.

Councilman Keith Curry commended law enforcement's work in crafting the ordinance, saying "it's something I've been asking for," according to Times Community News.

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Newport Beach's municipal code previously did not address medical marijuana, though dispensaries have not been allowed to operate in the city, according to City Manager Dave Kiff. Though there are no brick-and-mortar pot dispensaries operating in Newport Beach, several online services say they deliver marijuana to people in the city.

The ban is in response to the state's Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Oct. 9. The act, which becomes effective Jan. 1, will create California's first statewide licensing and operating rules for pot growers, manufacturers of cannabis products and retail outlets since state voters legalized medical marijuana nearly 20 years ago.

The act also states that unless cities take immediate action to enact rules or bans for medical marijuana in their areas, the state will become the sole authority for licensing and regulation, according to Newport Beach Mayor Ed Selich.

In 1996, voters approved Proposition 215, which enabled seriously ill Californians under the care of a doctor to legally possess, use and cultivate marijuana for medical use. In 2003, the state Legislature adopted the Medical Marijuana Program, which allowed patients to associate collectively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes.

Several neighboring cities have struggled for years with the notion of whether to allow pot shops.

In Costa Mesa, where medical marijuana dispensaries have been banned since 2005, two certified petitions sought to send the question to voters, but the City Council declined to put them on a special election ballot this year because of a technicality in state tax law. Instead, the petitions will be on the city's next general election ballot in November 2016.

According to a Newport Beach staff report, several California cities have reported offensive odors, illegal sales and distribution, trespassing, theft, violent robberies, fire hazards and other problems related to the cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

In a letter to the City Council, Joseph Stack wrote about the benefits medical marijuana had on an ill family member living in another city.

"She has been able to get off a number of medications that had much worse side effects," he wrote. He cautioned the council to "keep those people in mind when you consider our ordinances."

"I am all in favor of protecting the community from drug abuse and I wouldn't advocate opening up a dispensary on every corner, but I am pretty sure there are residents in our city that can't get out of the house and have their prescription medications delivered to their home," Stack wrote. "It seems like there should be some way for legitimate patients who benefit from medical marijuana to obtain and use it in our city in a medically responsible way."

Fry writes for Times Community News.

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