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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Public records request on my contacts with constituents regarding medical marijuana

Several people have sent a public records request to the City Attorney demanding to see any contacts I, Gary DeLong and Patrick O'Donnell have made with our constituents concerning regulating medical marijuana collectives.

While folks I think we are spending far too much time on this issue -- especially since the City continues to struggle with a bad economy --- my office complied with the request as we always do.

What the requesting party is finding is that I personally answer my emails. Now this can be good or bad depending on whichever way you look at it. Unlike other council members who don't answer their emails personally, I have a written record of my opinion -- which I personally believe is good. But that also means everything I write can be taken out of context and pointed back at me.

For instance, the requesting party wanted to know what I meant in my email to a constituent who complained about having marijuana collectives in Long Beach that I don't want the collectives and I didn't think we could make any changes to the ordinance that we passed earlier this year.

I meant what I wrote. I don't want marijuana collectives in my predominantly residential council district. With the most schools, libraries and parks in the City, I don't want the collectives located near where children gather. That's why I have been consistent about advocating for the buffer zones around schools, parks, libraries, etc. I also don't want more liquor stores and bars in the district (stop right here -- I cannot do anything to remove the current ones) and my residents were very vocal when a bar attempted to reopen on Woodruff and Spring --- and it didn't.

That being said, instead of outright voting against them I felt it was important to help craft an ordinance that was reasonable and if other council members wanted the collectives in their districts then so be it.

At the time I received emails about changing the initial ordinance -- which by the way did not include a buffer zone for parks -- I was under the impression that we could not make changes. However, I consulted with the City Attorney who informed me that since no permit was issued there was no vested right for anyone to operating a collective and that if the council felt it needed to make revisions, it could do so. And so I advocated for several changes -- including putting the park buffer back where it should have been when it was first raised. Thankfully my colleagues agreed.

So there you have it. I will get blasted for saying what I believe by those who are looking for any reason to loosen up the ordinance.

But this may all become moot -- which is a legal expression for of little or no practical meaning -- because if the collectives who are suing us on the basis that federal law pre-empts state and local law get a ruling in their favor  -- it will mean that federal law becomes the controlling law in this matter. And if that is the case, federal law considers marijuana to be a controlled substance and thus illegal to possess or to "sell."

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