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Pot rules due by summer

Proponents of medical marijuana got a shot in the arm Tuesday.

Laguna Beach planning officials say they are moving quickly to establish regulations so dispensaries can operate legally in Laguna Beach — possibly by summer.

During a hearing on a proposed extension of a moratorium on permitting the facilities, Community Development Director John Montgomery told the City Council his staff is “close to drafting an ordinance” that would regulate the facilities.

The council rejected Montgomery’s request for a 10 1/2 -month extension on the medical marijuana moratorium — the maximum allowed — opting instead for a six-month stay, to give city officials time to research the issue and come up with a plan.

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The moratorium means that a medical marijuana clinic proposed at 777 S. Coast Hwy. won’t open soon, but it doesn’t slam the door, either.

Laguna Beach Medical applied for a conditional use permit for the facility several months ago, triggering the move to establish a moratorium, Montgomery said.

Laguna Beach Medical spokesman Sheridan Linehan begged the council Tuesday not to continue the moratorium, fearing he would lose his lease on the location.

“We meet or exceed all [medical marijuana] guidelines and have already leased an adequate location,” Linehan said. “Our lessor is supportive but we risk losing the location if we can’t open immediately.

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“Multiple patients are awaiting our opening. Why do the sick and dying residents of Laguna Beach not have a safe place to obtain medicine?”

Linehan said his own grandfather, who died recently, had benefited from using medical marijuana during the final stages of terminal bone cancer.

Marijuana is considered beneficial for those suffering from AIDS and other terminal illness because of its pain-relieving and appetite-improving qualities.

Linehan noted that President Obama’s administration recently called a halt to federal enforcement of anti-marijuana laws that conflict with California’s voter-approved statute allowing the drug to be used for medicinal purposes.

City Manager Ken Frank asked Montgomery when the proposed regulations could be presented to the Laguna Beach Planning Commission, a precursor to council approval. Montgomery said he hopes to present a proposal to the commission in May.

Montgomery added that his chief concern about granting conditional-use permits for such facilities is that the permits are approved for the location and may be continued indefinitely.

“We are considering [proposing] that no CUP [for medical marijuana] would run with the property,” he told the council.

Instead, the permit would be issued to the operator and presumably would expire if the operator went out of business or the business changed hands.

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Montgomery added that since the news broke about the medical marijuana permit proposal for Laguna Beach, “we have gotten a lot of calls” from people wishing to apply.

“We wanted to set up the regulations first, and we can come back [to the council] before the end of summer,” Montgomery said.


CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or cindy.frazier@latimes.com.


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