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AZUSA - The City Council is scheduled to approve an ordinance today designed to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
Azusa would join several other local cities in outlawing the so-called "pot clubs." Pasadena has banned the dispensaries, and other cities, including Glendora, El Monte, Monterey Park and Monrovia have enacted moratoriums that prevent marijuana cooperatives from coming to town.
The Azusa council approved the new rule unanimously on its first reading in December, and is expected to do so again for its final reading.
The ordinance, although written to tackle medical marijuana dispensaries, skirts the issue by using broad language.
"Any business, operation or use that cannot be conducted or carried out without being in violation of state or federal law shall be prohibited," the ordinance reads.
It highlights the inherent problem in the law: California voters and legislators have legalized medical marijuana use, but the federal government still criminalizes it.
Councilman Keith Hanks said he supported the ordinance because having dispensaries could too easily result in abuse of the system.
"I understand that marijuana helps people who are sick," he said. "But how do you become a legal possessor of marijuana and show that you only have it to distribute for helping people who are sick? How can the police enforce the marijuana control laws? They're put in a difficult position."
Don Duncan, the Southern California coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group for medical marijuana patients, argued that dispensaries can be good for a city.
"In many of the 27 cities and six counties (statewide) that have allowed dispensaries, they reduced crime and reduced complaints and helped patients," he said. "Regulating cooperatives is better than banning them."
Police and City Council members in cities with dispensaries have found that dispensaries tend to have good security and a strong self-interest in self-policing their members, and also reduce street sales of marijuana, according to a report from Americans for Safe Access. However, detractors have expressed concern that marijuana dispensaries could be magnets for crime.
Azusa City Manager Fran Delach describes it as a simple matter of following the law.
"The federal law prohibits this, and the state law approves it," he said. "Our law says we have to be in compliance with both."
-------------------- "All laws which can be violated without doing anyone any injury are laughed at. Nay, so far are they from doing anything to control the desires and passions of man that, on the contrary, they direct and incite men's thoughts toward these very objects; for we always strive toward what is forbidden and desire the things we are not allowed to have." - Baruch Spinoza