Costa Mesa City Council will look into medical marijuana law


The Costa Mesa City Council on Tuesday will consider placing a medical marijuana initiative on November’s ballot, a proposal that supporters say will give proper city regulation over dispensaries.

Crafted by the city attorney’s office, the law aims to treat medical marijuana providers like any other business in town, said Councilman Gary Monahan, the proposal’s chief proponent.

Among the provisions are obtaining city-issued permits, operating on a nonprofit basis, 24-hour security standards and no marijuana recommendations coming from on-site physicians.


The law does not necessarily prohibit how many dispensaries can be in Costa Mesa — that would create an unfair monopoly, Monahan said — but, per state and federal law, it does prohibit the dispensaries from being 1,000 feet from one another and 1,000 feet from schools, libraries and youth centers.

The dispensaries could only be within commercial, manufacturing or industrial zones. City inspectors would also be allowed to make unannounced visits to ensure compliance.

“This thing has been vetted and vetted and vetted,” Monahan said. “This could be a model for the whole state. This thing is better than anything else anyone’s put out.”

The measure would require one majority vote for placement on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece said her primary reservations are about how the law was created. There seems to be an undue rush in getting it done, she said.

“I want to do it the right way,” Leece said. “I don’t think that one council person should hire the city attorney and his legal experts to bring forth an ordinance on medical marijuana. It requires great public debate, disclosure and vetting.”

Monahan said given the deadline for putting the item on the November ballot, there was not enough time to call a study session. He said with two other marijuana proposals floating about town, something needed to be done that will be the best for the city, not outside interests.

Leece also said she was concerned that the police department was not involved in creating the law.

“With an issue of such importance to public safety for people who might have businesses, families who live near [the dispensaries], schools, kids in general — I would have preferred to see this coming to the council in a study session, whereby we would be able to give our input,” Leece said.

Monahan said that the law empowers police and other city designees with inspection rights.

“The point is, if we pass this, we have control, and we have regulation,” he said. “That’s a key point.”

Monahan said he personally has nothing to gain from the proposal. Having marijuana at his bar and restaurant would compromise his liquor license, he said.

“It’s all about medical marijuana,” he said. “It’s all about patients.”

Marijuana, even for recreational use, is an idea that’s moving forward in California, said Jeff Byrne, a former dispensary owner.

Byrne’s American Collective on Cabrillo Street was among several raided by federal authorities in 2012. Byrne said he feels hesitant to open another dispensary, but sees Costa Mesa’s law as a vision for the future, which, in California, could include legalized recreational use of marijuana.

“I think Gary is seeing the writing on the wall,” Byrne said. “It’s coming. There’s no stopping it.”