Laguna Beach should move expeditiously to come up with a practical way to provide marijuana to people who need it for medical reasons, by prescription.
The City Council has basically told that to city staff, voting Feb. 17 to move forward with a plan to allow medical pot dispensaries in town.
That order was made at the same time the council put a moratorium on issuing permits for the facilities "” an interesting move considering no official permits had ever been issued that we are aware of.
The moratorium was triggered by an application for approval of a pot dispensary.
This issue has simmered in Laguna for years, ever since state voters approved a measure allowing doctors to give their patients prescriptions for the drug, which is known to ease symptoms associated with serious and terminal illnesses, such as cancer and AIDS.
The problem is that state law is in direct conflict with federal law, and unlike other instances in which state laws that are more lenient than federal laws are tolerated by the Feds, this one isn’t.
Marijuana dispensaries and cannabis clubs have opened up “in the open" throughout the state, only to be targeted by federal drug enforcement agents, such as the one on South Coast Highway that was raided and shut down last fall in Laguna. That facility had followed in the footsteps of three other dispensaries that we know of that were trying to provide a legal service but were ensnared in the jaws of this federal law.
On the local level, there is also a discrepancy.
While the city’s police department doesn’t recognize pot prescriptions, and by policy cites or arrests those caught using the drug openly, the city’s leaders have indicated they would like to make some accommodation for those who really need the drug.
Planning Commissioners, for instance, some years ago declined to officially outlaw pot dispensaries, and the council has expressed similar reluctance. In both cases, members expressed near-unanimous sympathy for those who find marijuana provides relief that other drugs cannot, and sought a “compassion" exception to no-tolerance policies.
At the same time, the city doesn’t want to get on the map as a place where marijuana is tolerated at will.
Perhaps the city can come up with a local prescription plan that will separate the recreational users from those who are truly using the drug to help with serious medical issues.