By Jonathan Friedman
November 5, 2009 -- City Council members last week declined to make any immediate advancement toward bringing the first medical marijuana dispensary to Santa Monica. But several members said it is something they would like to consider in the future.
The issue came up when a group of senior citizens headed by Judith Cooper asked the council to take action to allow them to open a local dispensary. Cooper said she wanted to open one in Santa Monica because most of the existing dispensaries in Los Angeles are “really scary and creepy.”
The request was not on the agenda for a formal permit hearing, so council members could not have immediately granted anything. But the council members were not interested in starting any process soon anyhow. The City’s zoning laws would need to be amended to allow for medical marijuana distribution.
“I do think probably at some point it will be the right thing to adjust our laws for, but I just think right now, it’s not a good time for us to consider it,” Mayor Ken Genser said.
Genser and others favored waiting because, among other reasons, it would allow City officials to see how the medical marijuana issue pans out in other local jurisdictions, including Los Angeles.
Many observers consider medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles to have gotten out of control, with an estimated 800 facilities located in the city. A draft ordinance that would lead to a severe reduction in that number is expected to go before the Los Angeles City Council sometime this month.
“We need to learn from the City of Los Angeles’ experience, which has been disastrous,” Council member Gleam Davis said. “Because they didn’t think through the process, and you have all sorts of craziness going on there now.”
Council member Kevin McKeown added, “It seems that there are two things Los Angeles is really bad at, billboards and pot. And they’ve made a mess of both.”
Council member Robert Holbrook, who is a pharmacist, noted that medical marijuana is not out of reach for Santa Monica residents. He mentioned advertisements in the local media that promise delivery to Santa Monica.
Referring to medical marijuana dispensaries, Holbrook said, “I don’t think it’s a problem we want.” He offered anecdotal evidence he had heard from those who have visited dispensaries.
“There’s always firearms involved, large amounts of cash, people at the doors offering to sell you marijuana cheaper than they do inside, and severe problems,” Holbrook said.