Redding leaders were scratching their heads Thursday, a day after Shasta County Superior Court struck down the city’s ban on medical marijuana storefront collectives.
“The whole issue of medical marijuana is in a state of flux in California,” said council member Francie Sullivan, unsure what the city’s next step should be. “My heart goes out to the people who are arguing, because the law is not clear on this.”
The council plans to go into closed session Tuesday night to decide whether to continue a legal fight and appeal the court’s ruling.
The council’s confusion stems in part over how to reconcile state and federal law. The latter still deems marijuana an illegal drug. But at least one council member put the blame on City Attorney Rick Duvernay for taking the council in the “wrong direction.”
“It’s become a tangled mess and ultimately we’re spending a lot of tax dollars on something that did not need to happen,” said Patrick Jones, who in 2010, when he presided as mayor, favored banning all marijuana activity in the city.
Duvernay thought the city could regulate the co-ops and the council followed his advice, Jones said.
“Looking back now, not heading down this path at all would have been the best direction. I doubt he would admit to that,” he said.
Council members entered nebulous territory last fall when they unanimously voted to ban storefront collectives. The city at the time had 16, although Duvernay said there had been 30 or more before the permitting system went in place.
“I think there is plenty of room for people to still grow marijuana for themselves and for their neighbors who have prescriptions. I think you can have up to 10,” Sullivan said. “What we said was, ‘You can’t have a business and sell the marijuana. You gotta close the storefront.'”
She lamented the pressure municipalities and courts are under in trying to interpret a law state lawmakers should define and fine-tune.
In Riverside County, a dispensary trying to open its doors scored a victory against Rancho Mirage on Tuesday. A judge ruled the city cannot deny the dispensary’s request for a certificate of occupancy.
“It’s clear that no one in the state of California has any idea what we’re doing here,” said Rick Bosetti, a council member running for an Assembly seat. “A community such as Redding cannot make a decision until the big dogs learn how to play with each other.”
Meanwhile, Jones said several of Redding’s largest cannabis dispensaries have been receiving letters from the U.S. Eastern District Court warning them their activities still are illegal under federal law.
“I suspect more letters will come and I suspect they ( the court ) will pay more attention and I suspect more complaints will come from neighbors,” he said.
Sullivan said the debate over medical marijuana won’t be going away for a long time. Questions still need to be answered about appropriate dosage and quality control, much like other prescriptions drugs, she said.
“The people of California have said the people who want marijuana for medical needs should have it. That is the will of the people,” Sullivan said. “The Legislature has to define it in a way to make that happen and be safe.”