Taking a decided step backward, the City of Napa has shut the door on pot.
The Napa City Council voted 3-2 Dec. 4 to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits. Council members voted to repeal a 3-year-old ordinance that, had it been implemented, would have allowed a single dispensary in Napa.
The vote went against a recommendation by the city planning commission, which voted in October to recommend the city keep the ordinance.
Instead, council members chose to join the hundreds of cities, towns and counties across California that now ban medical weed shops. That’s in contrast to nearby cities such as Oakland and Sacramento, which have enacted policies designed to work with dispensaries.
Drawing The Line Between Real Patients and Fake Ones
Mayor Jill Techel, who voted to repeal the ordinance, dramatically overstated the scope of recreational use within the state’s MMJ system. That, she said, is why she voted against dispensaries. Getting pot to genuine patients doesn’t bother her, she said.
“It’s the 90 percent [who are registered patients but aren’t ill] that concerns me,” Techel said.
Two council members voted to keep the ordinance that would allow a dispensary in Napa. Council Member Scott Sedgley changed his position from a preliminary vote in August because he did research in the meantime that changed his mind in favor of dispensaries, he said.
The council meeting Dec. 4 drew a large, vocal group of supporters and foes of medicinal cannabis. Spencer Smith, spokesman for the Napa County Green Party, spoke in favor of dispensaries.
“We believe patients have a right to safe access of medical marijuana and that this right should not be overridden by federal law,” Smith said.
Afraid of The Feds
Fear of federal intervention was the driving force behind the council’s decision to scrap the dispensary ordinance. The council first voted 4-1 in August to start the repeal process, asking the planning commission for its input.
But the commission voted 3-2 to recommend the council keep the ordinance. Commission members who voted against repeal said it was unlikely the federal government would swoop down on Napa dispensaries.
In fact that’s the position the Obama administration announced in late August, saying the Department of Justice and its various agencies – including the FBI and DEA – won’t interfere with legal weed as long as state and local governments enforce rigorous laws that meet certain federal priorities, such as limiting drug violence.
Napa city staff, apparently acting on their own interpretation of marijuana law, ignored that announcement, telling council members it didn’t change anything and they should still assume federal law enforcement would target medical weed in Napa.
The ordinance, passed in 2010, was never implemented due to legal problems. Instead, the city enacted a moratorium on pot shops. With that due to expire soon, the council asked the staff for direction – and came to the mistaken conclusion that repealing the ordinance was the only solution.