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Last night, the City Council took the responsible approach by directing the City Manager to return in March with a Multi-Year Police Academy recruitment plan. As chair of the Public Safety Committee, I believe that we need to increase our force, but also do so in a fiscally responsible way. I want to thank Councilman James Johnson for his support in moving this issue forward.
In addition, I want to thank the Council for supporting our proposal to ban commercial medical marijuana operations - with a temporary exemption for those collectives that have been operating in good faith.
This means that starting today, our Long Beach Police Department, and our City Attorney and Prosecutor, can begin the process of shutting down the more than 35 illegal collectives operating in Long Beach.
As you may be aware, a recent Court order – now under review by the California Supreme Court – threw out most of our City’s medical marijuana ordinance. That forced the City to choose between banning all storefront dispensaries, or allowing them to operate without any oversight, including for fire and electrical safety. That was something I could not support; the City has a duty to make sure all businesses and buildings operate in a safe, legal manner.
However, as you know, I have always been a supporter of access to medical marijuana for qualified patients. That’s why I supported to have those locations that have complied with our City’s ordinance (between 18 - 20) collectives to remain open for at least the next six months - a fair amount of time for their members to find alternate means of obtaining medicine. Before the six months elapse, the Council will again deliberate the issue, and if these operators have avoided being a nuisance and have complied with State and local laws, then they will be eligible for an extension.
Last night’s vote accomplishes several important things. First, it gives our police the power to immediately enforce the City’s laws and begin shutting down the locations that have ignored our City’s ordinance and flagrantly broken the law. This process won’t be complete overnight, but our police now have the tools they need to get rid of the bad neighbors that some of these dispensaries have been.
Second, we have protected patient access. However, until Federal Law changes to recognize the medical benefits of marijuana, patients' access will never be completely secure. That’s why I was glad to support Councilmember James Johnson’s motion to amend our City’s Federal Legislative agenda by adding support for rescheduling marijuana, so that it can be prescribed legally by doctors. Taking this position was the third important accomplishment last night, and is a great step forward for patients' rights.
The medical marijuana issue is far from over. The California Supreme Court, as well as possibly the Federal Courts and Congress, will have to sort it out, and that may take years. In the meantime, I will continue to do all I can to protect patient access, while ensuring our City is able to take care of its most basic job: Keeping our community safe.
Lastly, I want to thank our City Attorney Bob Shannon, and our City Prosecutor Doug Haubert for their advice and assistance on this important and complex issue.
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