Imperial Beach City Council Shifts Course on Dispensaries from Regulation to Eradication
By: Eugene Davidovich
Imperial Beach City Council to adopt a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries at June 15 council meeting; advocates, patients, and Imperial Beach residents outraged at shift in direction and prepared to send strong message in opposition to the ban.
IMPERIAL BEACH, CA — In August of 2009 after receiving multiple inquiries about opening dispensaries in the City, the Imperial Beach (IB) City Council approved an interim emergency ordinance enacting a moratorium on the establishment of dispensaries within City limits. At the same Council meeting after approving the moratorium, they denied an appeal of a determination by the Community Development Department that South Bay Organic Co-Op, a medical marijuana dispensary, was not a permitted use in the city's general commercial zone.
Marcus Boyd, the applicant, as well as the public that night were all promised the City would move towards an ordinance rather than a ban. Council members claimed the delay was necessary to properly research the issue and craft an ordinance.
Almost a year later on July 7, 2010 after eleven months with no progress, City Council took up the moratorium once again. This time a one year extension was being discussed. Dozens of medical cannabis patients, advocates and concerned citizens attended the July 7 meeting and urged City Council to end the delay and adopt reasonable regulations providing for safe and reliable access to medical cannabis for sick and dying patients in the City.
While ignoring public outcry and unprecedented opposition, the IB City Council unanimously voted to approve the extension for another year and explained to the public that more time was needed for adequate research. Again, they reassured everyone at the meeting that an ordinance rather than a ban was in the works.
In fact, the official approved minutes from the July 7 meeting read, "Council voiced their support for a more restrictive ordinance; they requested staff return with a reasonable time-frame and costs involved with regulation [of dispensaries]." [...] "they expressed their desire for the regulations to have uniformity and consistency with other agencies."
The Council discussion and vote from that meeting can be seen here:
According to a reliable source inside IB City Hall, after the July 7 meeting City Council took the issue into closed session. The meetings were held behind closed doors, were not listed on any Council agenda, and were conducted without public notice, input or knowledge in direct violation of the Brown Act.
Inside these closed session meeting, Council members decided to change direction from working on a regulation, to crafting an outright ban. The City decided it would be cheaper to deal with litigation then to create regulations.
In December 2010, with minimal public notice, City Council met to discuss the moratorium again. Instead of reviewing a time-frame for an ordinance and the related costs to regulate safe access as originally planned, Council members instead requested to see a modern-day Reefer Madness, 'Smear with Fear' eradication show, presented by San Diego County Sheriff and self proclaimed medical marijuana expert, Detective Michael Helms from the Licensing Division.
The show was rich with propaganda and exaggerations. Detective Helms portrayed the growing of cannabis plants at home as a dangerous undertaking, dispensaries were painted as magnets of crime and violence, and medical cannabis patients were all shown as young adults simply using the law to get high.
Detective Helms offered no discussion of the medical properties or therapeutic applications of cannabis and provided no references or citations in support of the information that was discussed. In fact, the show specifically avoided any mention of well regulated facilities in other cities and the benefits they bring to communities.
Funded by the BOS, Detective Helms has been tasked with conducting these presentations around the County in order to sway local governments into restricting access and enacting bans.
Recently, at the request of IB City officials Detective Helms presented the County’s eradication show to the Kiwanis Club of Imperial Beach. This time however, his presentation was met with questions and debate from the audience, rather than blind belief and acceptance. At the conclusion of the meeting, Kiwanis members voted informally 10 to 1, in support of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.
While Detective Helms has been busy scaring communities with ‘reefer madness’ propaganda, IB residents have been busy writing and mailing letters to their Council members urging them to adopt reasonable regulations instead of a ban.
“As part of the Imperial Beach Stop the Ban Campaign, volunteers have collected hundreds of letters all stamped and mailed to the attention of the City Council, Mayor, and City Manager” said Marcus Boyd, Vice Chair of San Diego Americans for Safe Access, a local chapter of the nation’s largest medical marijuana patients’ rights advocacy group.
According to Mr. Boyd, when he recently met with IB’s City Manager and asked if him if he had seen or read any of the letters from his constituents, the City Manager replied, “No, I haven’t read the letters are they addressed to me too? Lots of them are piling up on the City Clerks desk.”
News of the letters not having been read, distributed, or even looked at by anyone to whom they were addressed, came as a shock to the entire community, especially the residents who took time to write the letters.
“I’m very disappointed that City officials have ignored hundreds of letters from their own constituents, especially with so many containing personal handwritten notes” Boyd said regarding the city’s response.
On June 15, 2011 the IB City Council is scheduled to replace their moratorium with a permanent ban. If passed, the decision will ensure continuity of the environment of fear, where sick and dying patients are forced to obtain medicine from illicit sources rather than from local, safe and well regulated dispensing centers.
With hundreds of sick and dying patients in need of safe and reliable access in Imperial Beach, council members seem to favoring a ban at the expense of their most vulnerable constituents.
“Patients deserve a safe place to obtain their medicine in Imperial Beach” said Terrie Best, Board Member of San Diego Americans for Safe Access. “I hope Council Chambers are filled to capacity on the 15th. We need to send a strong message to the IB City Council; Imperial Beach residents want safe access in their neighborhood.”
Concerned citizens and residents are urged to attend the June 15th City Council meeting and speak out against the illegal ban. Urge the IB City Council to regulate safe access rather than eradicate it.
June 15th, 2011 - 6pm Sharp! - Imperial Beach City Hall - 825 Imperial Beach Blvd
- Campaign Website: www.stopthebanib.org
- Stop The Ban IB Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-The-Ban-Imperial-Beach/140981395970536
- July 7, 2010 City Council Meeting Minutes: http://stopthebanib.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/07-07-10-minutes.pdf