With one council member dissenting Monday night, city officials voted to repeal Albany's allowing a single dispensary to operate within the city limits.
The Nov. 7 vote was announced late last week as an "" after a southern California court decision from early October changed the way California cities could legally regulate dispensaries.
(A memo on the ruling, Pack v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (City of Long Beach), is attached to this story as a PDF. The memo was .)
Essentially, the ruling found that cities could not legally impose land use and operating regulations on an activity (marijuana sales) currently prohibited under federal law.
The ruling does not restrict the opening of dispensaries, but rather held that cities could not require permits, background checks or other special regulations to control them.
The Albany ordinance, as passed, prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within the city. Council members directed staff to report back in six months about any new legal developments affecting these dispensaries.
In 2006, Albany residents passed, by a vote of 54 percent, a non-binding advisory measure to allow a single marijuana dispensary within the city.
To date, no dispensaries have been approved.
Last year, brothers presented their proposal to open VitalGen, Inc., on Solano Avenue. Their dispensary plan was met with intense neighborhood opposition, and primarily because their selected location was determined to be too close to the YMCA.
(The city's medical marijuana ordinance set strict regulations about how close a dispensary could be to youth-oriented facilities.)
Following the VitalGen proposal, another group applied to open , but the applicant, said city planner Anne Hersch on Monday, did not pass the background check.
( Chief Mike McQuiston previously declined a request from Albany Patch to provide information about the reason for that determination.)
A number of other applicants have come before the city, but none met the criteria required for operation.
FOR SOME, A RELIEF
Several neighbors spoke Monday night in favor of the repeal.
Said Albany resident Ed Fields, a failure to repeal the ordinance could result in a "free-for-all" for medical marijuana dispensaries because the city would be unable to regulate them.
Albany resident Marcy Lauer, who was active in efforts to fight against VitalGen opening on Solano Avenue, agreed.
"The thought of it being a free-for-all, and the city not having control of this issue... if I thought I was losing sleep ...," she said, trailing off, in reference to VitalGen's push for approval in 2010. "I can't imagine this small town dealing with more than one (dispensary)."
Lauer added that she didn't think a repeal of Albany's ordinance would restrict access for medical marijuana users. She cited a nearby dispensary on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, as well as local delivery services, as ways for patients to access their medicine currently.
No members of the public spoke against the ordinance.
A LONE VOICE OPPOSES THE REPEAL
, a nurse, took a stand against what was otherwise unanimous council support for the medical marijuana dispensary ordinance repeal.
Lieber described the southern California decision in October as "controversial," adding that "the Feds haven't changed their approach to marijuana at all."
Lieber said the Pack decision wasn't a legitimate reason for overturning the city ordinance.
"I don't think we're doing this because of case law. It's simply that we don't have the backbone to stand up for what we should," he said. "This is clearly a case of abandoning this effort."
Lieber said he was certain the lower court decision would be appealed, and openly expressed his dismay about the Albany repeal.
"We've been at this for eight years. There's been a lot of controversy, over which neighborhoods and where (to put a dispensary)," he said. "I'm just seeing a lack of compassion in this town on this issue."
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