Pending the outcome of several state and federal medical marijuana lawsuits, including a case of its own, the Murrieta City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to extend a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.
Murrieta has had a ban in place since 2005, but enacted a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries on Oct. 18. That has now been extended to Dec. 2, 2012.
The city plans to use the time to revise its permanent ordinance in order to provide clear guidance to the public "in light of new state and federal legal developments," according to the approved resolution.
On Nov. 9, a state appellate court upheld Riverside’s citywide ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. The Fourth District Court ruled that nothing in the 1996 Compassionate Use Act or the Medical Marijuana Program Act preempts cities from banning the facilities.
In Riverside County, only the city of Palm Springs allows medical marijuana dispensaries to operate.
A was announced Oct. 7, with the lone Murrieta dispensary, Cooperative Medical Group, or CMG Outreach, among those said to be targeted.
The federal crackdown is being challenged. to read about it.
The City Council's decision followed another vote to revoke a business license held by the owners of CMG Outreach, which is currently
The business license was obtained under the auspices of a property management company, MCCMG Investments, LLC.
Deputy City Attorney Bob Mahlowitz said, however, that CMG co-owner Beth Burns "admitted to city police that there has never been a property management business at the location."
Mahlowitz claimed that CMG committed perjury when applying for the business license, checking "no" when asked whether drugs would be sold at the location.
In a statement, Murrieta police Sgt. Markellus Reid said he was in the dispensary and witnessed $20 changing hands during a transaction.
Further, Mahlowitz said daily citations issued to the business while it was in operation during July and then again in October are "proof that a dispensary was being operated."
More than $44,000 in fines were accrued, he said.
Dispensary owners Beth Burns and Charles Thompson were not present at Tuesday's meeting, during which a public hearing was held about the revocation of their property management business license.
Mahlowitz said they were given notice of the hearing via overnight delivery and U.S. mail, sent on Oct. 25.
On Monday, Burns referred any further questions about the dispensary and its ongoing litigation with the city of Murrieta to attorney Nick David, who was also not present at the hearing Tuesday.
Murrieta police Chief Mike Baray said the extended moratorium is needed in spite of the recent rulings in favor of Riverside and Upland.
"Those cases have been in favor of cities banning medical marijuana dispensaries, however it is likely the two cases that are of significance to us, the Upland or the Riverside, will petition the Supreme Court, so at this time we are still in a position [of needing this time] to allow us to review and monitor the court decisions," Baray said.
Council members were in agreement.
"It is simply a matter of maintaining status quo until the legal wrangling [is over] and the dust can settle around this case," said Councilwoman Kelly Bennett.
One member of the public spoke against the city's ban on dispensaries.
"When you ban, that drives up the price of it in the region..." said Donald Lambert, an 82-year-old Murrieta resident who admitted he never used marijuana, or any other drug.
He said it could result in increased distribution of more dangerous drugs, and urged the city to apply reasonable zoning.
"Your definition of dispensary is far too broad, it obliterates the rights of patients by state law," Lambert said. "It denies rights given to the them by the Compassionate Use Act of 1996...and the Medical Marijuana Program of 2003..."
The program, signed by Gov. Gray Davis, gives medical marijuana cardholders access to the drug and protection from arrest.
This, however, is in contrast to the federal Controlled Substances Use Act, which prohibits all marijuana possession, even for medical purposes, wrote Murrieta police Capt. Dennis Vrooman, in a staff report.
Toni McAllister contributed to this report.