City moves ahead with ban on pot dispensaries

An ordinance that would permanently ban medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits was introduced by the City Council on Tuesday, just two months before a moratorium prohibiting the shops is set to expire.

Current zoning codes so far have kept marijuana dispensaries at bay, but city officials have sought stronger language, saying interest has grown in recent years.

The City Council enacted a moratorium in 2009 to prevent dispensaries from opening, but it will expire in September with no option for an extension.

Last month, city attorneys were directed to draft an all-out ban.

Glendale officials had hoped a decision by a state appellate court regarding a similar ban in Anaheim would provide a legal precedent. Instead, the state 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana sent a legal challenge of the city’s ban back to a lower court for further review.

City attorneys said Glendale should be on solid legal ground in joining dozens of cities that already ban dispensaries.

Glendale’s ordinance uses zoning code amendments to keep dispensaries from opening by banning businesses that engage in any activity that violates federal, state or local laws from operating in any zone. The ordinance also specifically identifies medical marijuana dispensaries as being banned in all zones.

“State law allows cities to make decisions about their zoning laws,” said Senior City Atty. Carmen Merino. “We really feel that this ordinance will protect the citizens of Glendale and be in compliance with both federal and state law.”

Other local cities that have prohibited dispensaries include Burbank, La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena and South Pasadena.

Hundreds of pot dispensaries have opened in Los Angeles because a moratorium was not enforced. Last year, Los Angeles passed an ordinance limiting the number of dispensaries to 70, exempting those that were operating before 2007. At one point, there were more than 600 of them in Los Angeles.

In cities where dispensaries have opened, law enforcement agencies have reported an increase in burglaries, vandalism, illegal drug sales and other crimes, according to a report from the California Chiefs of Police Assn.

Medical marijuana supporters claim that state law prohibits all-out bans and that local government officials should feel obliged to address the needs of patients in their communities.

The City Council is slated to hold a final vote on the ordinance next week.

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