GLENDALE — A day after the Obama administration issued a memo discouraging federal prosecutors from pursuing medical marijuana users and pot dispensaries that follow state rules, the city attorney’s office will ask the City Council today to extend a 45-day moratorium by another 10 months.
While the federal action would have no direct effect on current city plans, it was the latest development in complicated legal landscape that had kept city officials throughout California on their toes.
Also on Monday, a Superior Court judge granted a preliminary injunction against a Los Angeles moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries, one the city had argued was based on public safety and not zoning, and so could be extended beyond the allowable 24-month period.
But the judge sided with a medical marijuana dispensary that had challenged the ban in court, casting a large shadow over L.A.’s ability to rein in the spread of pot dispensaries.
Glendale has none, but interest from outside vendors exists, city officials. That prompted the City Council in September to adopt a temporary 45-day moratorium to allow city attorneys time to evaluate the city’s legal standing in not granting the dispensaries permits.
Tonight, the council will be asked to extend that moratorium an additional 10 months, 15 days before the current ban expires Nov. 5 — a deadline that proved to be the impetus for the lawsuit against Los Angeles.
Despite the existing moratorium, Carmen Merino, the city’s general counsel for the Police Department, said the city received two inquiries this month from potential medical pot vendors.
Efforts to reach a representative of L.A.-based Holistic Co-Opt, Randy Llamas, who has spoken in favor of the dispensaries at City Council meetings in the past, were unsuccessful.
“We are still looking at the legal landscape as far as pending cases that involved ordinances prohibiting dispensaries, and it’s clear from the guidelines that dispensaries that market or have excessive financial gains are still going to be viewed potentially by the feds as not being consistent with state law,” Merino said.
And the city attorney’s office is requesting an extension on the moratorium to conduct more research about medical marijuana dispensaries and their impact on the public, according to a city report.
City attorneys were also reviewing other civil cases involving medical marijuana storefronts in other cities that are in litigation.
Merino attended oral arguments on a case in which Anaheim banned all medical marijuana dispensaries. The case is in the California 4th District Court of Appeal, and a decision is expected to be made the end of this year.
In the memo issued Monday from U.S. Deputy Atty. Gen. David Ogden, federal prosecutors were told to focus resources on dispensaries and people who appear to be involved in illegal drug trafficking. That would include sellers who unlawfully possess and use firearms; are involved in violence; sell to minors; have ties to criminal enterprises; illegally possess and sell controlled substances; have conflicting amounts of marijuana and inconsistent financial and marketing, the memo stated.
“They are saying it’s OK to go ahead and use federal resources to look into those dispensaries to find out if there is violation of state law,” Merino said.
The memo was intended to provide guidance to federal prosecutors, who must deal with cases involving medical marijuana, which is allowed in 14 states.
Some examples of cases that should be left alone include those with serious illnesses who use marijuana as a treatment and caregivers who provide the drug in compliance with state law, according to the memo.
Last week, Los Angeles County District Atty. Steve Cooley said he would go after dispensaries operating for profit because that would violate state law.
VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at email@example.com.