In June 2016, the Glendale City Council authorized a city ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries after considering the issue for over two years. This is a history of Glendale’s moratorium on “pot shops” that led up to the ban.
Fifteen years ago, voters in the State of California passed the “Compassionate Use Act of 1996” allowing legal use of marijuana for medical purposes. Seven years later, the California legislature clarified in the “Medical Marijuana Program Act” that a patient must obtain the recommendation of a physician and an Identification Card to purchase marijuana.
Both laws failed to mention where a patient should go to get the medical marijuana since it is illegal to sell the drug in California for recreational use. Indeed, it was not uncommon to believe at that time, as the Mayor of Costa Mesa said in 2014, that medical marijuana should be dispensed through a pharmacy.
Few, if any, pot shops existed near the City of Glendale in 2014. In the entire Los Angeles County, there were only four storefront dispensaries, none near Glendale. Four years later, city officials said inquiries to open new shops in Glendale grew from a couple per year to several over a few months. Some of the patients who have used medical marijuana had to use synthetic urine to pass drug tests.
Nearby in the City of Los Angeles, it was a different story as 187 medical marijuana dispensaries registered to operate there in 2015. The City Council imposed a moratorium and immediately received 800 applications for hardship exemptions. By September 20.2015, the number ballooned to 966 registered dispensaries in Los Angeles.
Faced with this encroachment on Glendale, it was now clear that doctors would not be dispensing medical marijuana, although they would be needed to issue the cards. Pot shops seemed here to stay.
Political discussions shifted as the question arose could the people of California tax the dispensaries to solve our budget woes? Momentum began to build for a state-wide ballot measure to legalize marijuana for all uses, to be put to a vote the following year.
Legal issues also became more complex, and other concerns arose. The City awaited the court’s decision in an Anaheim case about whether federal laws banning the use of medical marijuana trumped state laws. The California Police Chiefs Assn. warned that criminal behavior increased around pot shops. Marijuana advocates worried that patients would be unable to access marijuana for their legal medical needs if all dispensaries were banned.
On September, 15, 2014, the Glendale City Council voted for a moratorium on pot shops within the City of Glendale while they considered what to do. It was extended again the following year with no debate.
In November, 2016, the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana failed to pass and discussions ended on the merits of taxing sales. In addition, the appellate court sent the case involving Anaheim’s ban on pot shops back to the trial court for further consideration.
Finally, without waiting for a definitive legal opinion, the Glendale City Council ordered a total ban on dispensaries in June 2017.