Police: Marijuana dispensaries hurt communities

The Costa Mesa City Council has postponed its discussion of a new report by the police department that urges caution about the potential effects of medical marijuana dispensaries returning to the city.

The discussion is now scheduled for 7 p.m. during the council's Dec. 16 meeting. It was originally set for Tuesday's meeting.

In the report, police contend that dispensaries in Southern California "have had a negative impact on the communities where they operate," and are associated with "negative consequences for the surrounding communities, including robberies and murder."

Police also wrote that "temptations of the profits in the illicit market would likely cause some to store marijuana over and above what would be a reasonable amount. This, along with large sums of cash at the dispensaries, would make them prime targets for burglaries and robberies."

In Costa Mesa's case, police believe the dispensaries could also lead to increases in the homeless population, like what has occurred in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal.

The Denver Post reported an apparent uptick in homelessness in Colorado, but attributed the change to those drawn to the state who couldn't find housing – not necessarily the pot law causing the local population to become homeless.

The Costa Mesa council ordered the report last month in response to two citizen petitions certified by the county registrar earlier this year. Both petitions seek to again permit regulated dispensaries in the city, where they have been banned since 2005 but openly operated until federal shutdowns in 2012.

The report also had input from city attorneys, firefighters, finance officials and others.

In addition to the two citizen petitions, staff examined the effects of a marijuana law proposed by Councilman Gary Monahan earlier this year and a recently approved one for Santa Ana.

After examining the report, the council could call for a special election to take place next spring. Because of election law, however, the council could put the two petitions in the November 2016 general election ballot because they each contain a tax provision, which must coincide with the next council race.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 in City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

— Bradley Zint

Twitter: @bradleyzint

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