Last year the left-leaning city of Santa Monica raised the hopes of medical marijuana supporters by opening the door to the possibility of allowing two shops to sell cannabis in town.
Tonight the city's Planning Commission will consider a new recommendation by Planning & Community Development staff to nix the whole idea of allowing any weed retailers in favor of delivery services. Despite California's medical marijuana laws and legitimate shops in neighboring L.A., Santa Monica has never allowed any retailers to open.
Some of those medical marijuana supporters are disappointed, to say the least:
The planning staff says that parking and crime are issues too large to overcome and that cannabis delivery services – though not exactly legit – could well serve the needs of residents who want their medicine.
That's a far cry from the two shops some on the City Council expected to vote yes or no on. Some medical marijuana activists wanted to see more like four, the number of shops West Hollywood has allowed, fairly successfully so.
Attorney Michael Chernis specializes in representing dispensaries in greater L.A. He let the Planning Commission know that some of his clients aren't backing down when it comes to having legal weed shops in one of the West Coast's most liberal cities.
He argues that parking is a challenge for any business, but that doesn't preclude them from opening. He cites three studies that conclude crime is no worse at dispensaries than at other retailers. And he says Santa Monica hasn't legalized marijuana delivery inside its boundaries, not to mention the fact that such services are already on thin legal ice.
None of those delivery services are licensed or regulated by any municipality. Driving around with marijuana? They're vulnerable to police stops and arrest.
Chernis says some in the City Hall bureaucracy don't want pot shops in town, even if some of the city's political leaders now do, mainly in response to constituent demand.
He says the city originally discussed pushing dispensaries into Santa Monica's medical district, but now planning staffers are concluding that there's not enough parking there.
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“They set up the problem so there is a problem,” Chernis says. “If we're going to allow two dispensaries they have to be in one of the most impacted parking areas in the city. Then they say it's got a really bad parking problem so lets not allow them. That's the logic.”
The Commission tonight could send the recommendation for zero dispensaries on to a City Council that might not like hearing that. Or it could tell staffers to take another shot.
Don't hold your breath.