Costa Mesa council rejects ballot measure on pot dispensaries

Costa Mesa council rejects ballot measure on pot dispensaries
David Dragotto, left, at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting on Tuesday. He supports pot dispensaries so that patients such as his daughter, Gianna, 10, who has a congenital disorder, can have safe access to marijuana. (Kevin Chang, Daily Pilot)

It was called an excellent law, possibly one of the best in California.

But such sentiment didn't sway the Costa Mesa City Council enough to put a medical marijuana proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot.


After 2 1/2 hours of discussion and debate Tuesday evening, the proposal failed to find enough support among council members.

The pot law, drafted by the city's attorney, would not have restricted the number of dispensaries but would have required 24-hour security and prohibited on-site marijuana recommendations from doctors.

In following state and federal laws, the initiative would have restricted dispensaries' locations and kept them at least 1,000 feet from one another as well as from schools and youth centers.

"There are a lot of people in this community that have a need for medical marijuana," said Councilman Gary Monahan, who pushed the pot law. "And this will provide them a safe way to acquire that."

Although it was strongly supported by those in the audience, Monahan's colleagues were not won over. Councilwoman Wendy Leece said the proposal felt hurried — it was made public late last week.

Monahan said there was a need to move quickly because two other marijuana initiatives were being circulated in the city.

One of those initiatives, led by Orange County attorney Randall Longwith, could initiate a special election, possibly early next year.

Longwith told the council he would drop his idea if the council decided to put Monahan's "unbelievably well-written" proposal on the ballot.

"I'm disappointed, very disappointed," Longwith said after the council rejected the proposal. "I thought they had the opportunity to do the right thing today."

Former Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Stephen Downing said prohibition-like policies have done as much harm as "the drugs we failed to control."

Costa Mesa's proposal, he contended, is flexible and would provide a suitable framework for the city.

"This is the best ordinance I have read," Downing said. "And I have read many."